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The Master, Jules Massenet 





Authorized Translator of 

H. S. H. the Prince of Monaco's Autobiography: 
La Carriere fun Navigateur 



Copyright, 1919, 









"Chere amie, gardez aussi sa religion, ft qu'elle vous conduise, 
ferme et courageuse, an milieu des cahots de la vie, jusquau paradis 
des arts" 


I Have been often asked whether I put together 
the recollections of my life from notes jotted 
down from day to day. To tell the truth I did, 
and this is how I began the habit of doing so reg- 

My mother a model wife and mother, who 
taught me the difference between right and wrong 
said to me on my tenth birthday: 

"Here is a diary." (It was one of those long- 
shaped diaries which one found in those days at 
the little Bon Marche, not the immense enterprise 
we know now.) "And," she added, "every 
night before you go to bed, you must write down 
on the pages of this memento what you have seen, 
said, or done during the day. If you have said 
or done anything which you realize is wrong, you 
must confess it in writing in these pages. Per- 
haps it will make you hesitate to do wrong dur- 
ing the day." 

How characteristic of an unusual woman, a 
woman of upright mind and honest heart this 


idea was! By placing the matter of conscience 
among the first of her son's duties, she made Con- 
science the very basis of her methods of teaching. 

Once when I was alone, in search of some dis- 
traction I amused myself by foraging in the cup- 
boards where I found some squares of chocolate. 
I broke off a square and munched it. I have said 
somewhere that I am greedy. I don't deny it. 
Here's another proof. 

When evening came and I had to write the ac- 
count of my day, I admit that I hesitated a mo- 
ment about mentioning that delicious square of 
chocolate. But my conscience put to the test in 
this way conquered, and I bravely recorded my 
dereliction in the diary. 

The thought that my mother would read about 
my misdeed made me rather shamefaced. She 
came in at that very moment and saw my con- 
fusion; but directly she knew the cause she 
clasped me in her arms and said: 

"You have acted like an honest man and I for- 
give you. All the same that is no reason why 
you should ever again eat chocolate on the sly!" 

Later on, when I munched other and better 
chocolate, I always obtained permission. 


Thus it came about that from day to day I have 
always made notes of my recollections be they 
good or bad, gay or sad, happy or not, and kept 
them so that I might have them constantly in 






















XIX A NEW LIFE .... 186 








XXIV FROM Cherubin TO Therese 242 


XXVI FROM Ariane TO Don Quichotte .... 267 

XXVII A SOIREE .......... 278 




The Master, Jules Massenet . . . Frontispiece 

Massenet at Egreville ...... 44 

One of the last portraits of Massenet . . .68 

Mme. Pauline Viardot ...... 84 

Titta Ruffo, Caruso and Chaliapine . . . .110 

The Forum from the First Act of Roma (See page SOO) 154 
Posthumia (Roma) (Seepage 297) . . . .170 

Lucy Arbell 212 

Persephone in Ariane ...... 244 

Queen Amahelly (Bacchus) ..... 268 

Dulcinee (Dora Quichotte) 282 

Facsimile of Massenet's Reply to an Invitation to 

Visit America 296 





Were I to live a thousand years which is 
hardly likely I should never forget that fateful 
day, February 24, 1848, when I was just six 
years old. Not so much because it coincided 
with the fall of the Monarchy of July, as that it 
marked the first steps of my musical career a 
career which, even yet, I am not sure was my real 
destiny, so great is my love for the exact sciences ! 

At that time I lived with my parents in the 
Rue de Beaune in an apartment overlooking the 
great gardens. The day promised to be fine, but 
it was very cold. 

We were at luncheon when the waitress rushed 
into the room like a maniac. "Aux armes, citoy- 
ens!" she yelled, throwing rather than placing 
the plates on the table. 

I was too young to understand what was going 
on in the streets. All I can remember is that 



riots broke out and that the Revolution smashed 
the throne of the most debonair of kings. The 
feelings which stirred my father were entirely dif- 
ferent from those which disturbed my mother's 
already distracted soul. My father had been an 
officer under Napoleon Bonaparte and a friend 
of Marshal Soult, Duke of Dalmatia. He was all 
for the Emperor, and the atmosphere of battles 
suited his temperament. My mother, on the 
other hand, had experienced the sorrows of the 
first great revolution, which dragged Louis XVI 
and Marie Antoinette from their throne, and 
thrilled with worship for the Bourbons. 

The memory of that exciting meal remained 
the more deeply fixed in my mind because on the 
morning of that historic day, by the light of tal- 
low candles (wax candles were only for the rich) 
my mother for the first time placed my fingers 
on the piano. 

In order best to introduce me to the knowledge 
of this instrument, my mother she was my 
music teacher stretched along the keyboard a 
strip of paper upon which she wrote the notes 
corresponding to each of the black and white 
keys, with their position on the five lines. It was 
most ingenious; no mistake was possible. 



My progress on the piano was so pronounced 
that three years later, in October, 1851, my pa- 
rents thought I ought to apply at the Conserva- 
toire for the entrance examination to the piano 

One morning that month we went to the Rue 
de Faubourg-Poissonniere. The Conservatoire 
National de Musique was there then, and it re- 
mained there until it was moved to the Rue de 
Madrid. The large room we entered like all 
the rest in the place at that time had walls 
painted a bluish gray, spotted with black. A 
few old benches were the only furniture in this 

M. Ferriere, a harsh, severe looking man he 
was one of the upper employees came out to 
call the candidates by flinging their names into 
the crowd of relatives and friends that accom- 
panied them. It was like summoning the con- 
demned to execution. Then he gave each can- 
didate the number of his turn before the jury 
which had already assembled in the rooms where 
the sessions were held. 

This room was intended for examinations and 
was a sort of small theater with a row of boxes and 
a circular gallery in the Consulate style. I con- 



fess that I have never entered that room without 
feeling emotion. I have always fancied that I 
saw, seated opposite in a first-tier box, as in a 
black hole, Bonaparte, the First Consul, and Jos- 
ephine, the sweet companion of his early years. 
He with his forceful, handsome face ; she with her 
kind and gentle glances, for both used to come to 
such occasions. By her visits to this sanctuary 
dedicated to Art and by bringing him, so preoccu- 
pied with many cares, good and noble Josephine 
seemed to wish to soften his thoughts and to 
make them less stern by contact with the youth 
who some day perforce would not escape the hor- 
rors of war. 

From the time of Sarette, the first director, un- 
til recently, all the examinations for classes in the 
institution, both tragedy and comedy, were held 
in this same small hall, but it should not be con- 
fused with the hall so well known as the Salle de 
la Societe des Concerts du Conservatoire. 

The organ class was also held there several 
times a week for at the back, hidden behind a 
large curtain, was a great organ with two key- 
boards. Beside that old, worn, squeaky instru- 
ment was the fateful door through which the pu- 
pils came on to the platform that formed the 



small stage. Again, this same small hall, for 
many a year, was the judgment seat for the award 
of prizes for musical composition known as the 
Prix de Rome. 

But to return to the morning of October 9, 
1851. When all the youngsters had been in- 
formed of the order in which we must take our 
examinations, we went into an adjoining room 
which led into the hall through the "fateful" 
door, and which was only a sort of dusty, disor- 
dered garret. 

The jury whose verdict we had to face was 
composed of Halevy, Carafa, Ambroise Thomas, 
several professors of the school, and the director, 
who was also the president of the Conservatoire, 
Monsieur Auber. We rarely said just Auber 
when we spoke of this French master, the most 
eminent and prolific of all who made the opera 
and opera-comique of that time famous. 

At this time Monsieur Auber was sixty-five. 
He was universally respected and everyone at the 
Conservatoire adored him. I shall always re- 
member his pleasing, unusually bright black 
eyes, which remained the same until his death in 
May, 1871. 

May, 1871 ! We were then in open insurrec- 


> .. 

tion, almost in the last throes of the Commune 
. . . and Monsieur Auber, still faithful to his 
beloved boulevard near the Passage de 1'Opera 
his favorite walk met a friend also in despair 
over the terrible days we were passing through, 
and said to him, in an accent of utter weariness, 

"Ah! I have lived too long!" Then he 
added, with a slight smile, "One should never 
abuse anything." 

In 1851 the date when I became acquainted 
with Monsieur Auber he had already lived a 
long time in his old mansion in the Rue St. 
George, where I remember having been received 
soon after seven in the morning, the master's 
work was finished by that time, the hour at which 
he gave himself to the calls he welcomed so sim- 

Then he went to the Conservatoire in a tilbury 
which he ordinarily drove himself. At sight 
of him one was instantly reminded of the opera 
La Muette de Portici, which had exceptional 
good luck, and which was the most lasting success 
before Robert le Diable made its appearance at 
the Opera. To speak of La Muette de Portici is 
to be vividly reminded of the magical effect which 
the duet in the second act, Amour sacre de la 



patrie, produced on the patriots in the audience 
when it was produced at the Theatre de la Mon- 
naie at Brussels. In very truth it gave the signal 
for the revolution which broke out in Belgium in 
1830 and which brought about the independence 
of our neighbors on the north. The whole audi- 
ence was wild with excitement, and sang the 
heroic strain with the artists, repeating it again 
and again without stopping. What master can 
boast of a success like that in his own career? 

When my name was called, all of a tremble, I 
made my appearance on the stage. I was only 
nine years old and I had to play the finale of Bee- 
thoven's Sonata, Opus 29. What ambition ! 

They stopped me in the usual way after I had 
played two or three pages. I was utterly embar- 
rassed as I heard Monsieur Auber's voice calling 
me before the jury. To get down from the stage, 
I had to descend two or three steps. I paid no 
attention to them and would have gone head first 
if Monsieur Auber had not kindly called out, 
"Take care, my little man." Then he immedi- 
ately asked me where I had studied so well. 
After replying with some pride that my mother 
had been my only teacher, I went out, absolutely 



bewildered, almost at a run, but entirely happy. 
He had spoken to me ! 

Next morning my mother received the official 
notice. I was a pupil at the Conservatoire. 

At this time there were two teachers of the 
piano at the great school Mamontel and Laur- 
ent. There were no preparatory classes. I was 
assigned to Laurent's class, and I remained there 
two years while I continued my classical studies 
at college. At the same time I took sol-fa lessons 
from M. Savard who was excellent. 

Professor Laurent had been Premier Prix de 
piano under Louis XVIII. Then he was a cav- 
alry officer, but left the army to become a profes- 
sor in the Royal Conservatoire of Music. He 
was goodness itself, realizing the ideal of that 
quality in the fullest sense of the word. He 
placed entire confidence in me. 

M. Savard was an extraordinarily erudite man. 
He was the father of one of my pupils, a Grand 
Prix de Rome, now the director of the Conserva- 
toire at Lyons. (What a number of my old pu- 
pils are or have been directors of conservatoires ! ) 
His heart was as large as his learning was exten- 
sive. It is pleasant to recall that when I wanted 
to work at counterpoint, before I entered the class 



in fugue and composition Ambroise Thomas 
was the professor M. Savard was quite willing 
to give me lessons. I went to his house to take 
them, and every evening I went down from Mont- 
martre where I lived to Number 13, Rue de la 
Vielle-Estrpade, behind the Pantheon. 

What wonderful lessons I had from that sim- 
ple, learned man! How courageous I was as I 
walked the long way I had to go to his house from 
which I returned each evening about ten o'clock 
full of the wise and learned advice he had given 

As I said, I made the trip on foot. I did not 
even ride on the top of an omnibus in order to set 
aside sou by sou the price I would have to pay for 
my lessons. I had to follow this system; the 
shade of Descartes would have congratulated me. 

But note the delicacy of that charitable- 
hearted man. When the day came for him to 
take what I owed him, M. Savard told me that he 
had some work for me the transcription for a 
full orchestra of the military band accompani- 
ment U Adolphe Adam's mass, and he added 
that the work would net me three hundred 
francs ! ! . . . 

His purpose was obvious, but I did not see it. 


It was not till long afterwards that I understood 
that M. Savard had thought of this way of not ask- 
ing me for money by making me think that the 
three hundred francs represented the fee for his 
lessons; that, to use a fashionable phrase, they 
"compensated" him. 

After all the years which have gone since he 
was no more, my heart still says to that master, 
to that charming, admirable soul, "Thank you!" 




When I took my seat on the benches of the 
Conservatoire, I was rather delicate and not very 
tall. This was the excuse for the drawing which 
the celebrated caricaturist Cham made of me. 
He was a great friend of the family and often 
came to spend the evening with my parents. 
They had many talks which the brilliant crafts- 
man enlivened with his sprightly and witty en- 
thusiasms, seated around the family table lighted 
by the dim light of an oil lamp. (Kerosene was 
scarcely known and electricity had not come into 
use for lighting.) 

We used to drink a sweet syrup on such occa- 
sions, for this was before a cup of tea was the 
fashionable drink. 

I was often asked to play, so that Cham had 
every opportunity to draw my profile. He rep- 
resented me as seated on five or six folios of music 
with my hands in the air, scarcely reaching the 



keyboard. This was obviously an exaggeration, 
but there was enough truth in it to show that it 
was founded on fact. 

I often went with Cham to see a lovely and lov- 
able friend of his in the Rue Tarranne. Natu- 
rally I was asked to "play the piano." I remem- 
ber that on one evening when I was asked to play 
I had just received third place in a prize competi- 
tion both on the piano and in solfeggio, and to 
prove it I had two heavy bronze medals inscribed 
"Conservatoire imperial de musique et de decla- 
mation." It is true that they listened to me no 
better on this account, but I was affected by the 
honor nevertheless. 

Some years later, in the natural course of 
events, I learned that Cham had secretly married 
the beautiful lady of the Rue Tarranne. As he 
was somewhat embarrassed by the marriage, he 
did not send announcement cards to his friends, 
much to their surprise. When they asked him 
about it, he replied, wittily, 

"Of course I sent announcements. . . . They 
were anonymous." 

In spite of my mother's extreme watchfulness, 
I escaped from home one evening. I knew that 
they were giving Berlioz's UEnfance du Christ 



at the Opera-Comique and that the great com- 
poser was to conduct. I could not pay my way 
in, but I had an irresistible desire to hear the 
work, especially as it was a creation of Berlioz's, 
who aroused the enthusiasm of all our young peo- 
ple. So I asked my companions who sang in 
the children's chorus to take me in and let me 
hide among them. I must confess that I secretly 
wanted to get behind the scenes of a theater. 

As might be imagined, my escapade rather 
upset my mother. She waited up for me until 
after midnight . . . she thought I was lost in 
this vast Paris. 

Needless to say that, when I came in abashed 
and shamefaced, I was well scolded. I bore up 
under two storms of tears if it is true that a 
woman's wrath, like the rain in the forests, falls 
twice; still, a mother's heart cannot bear anger 
forever and I went to bed made easy on that 
scare. Nevertheless I could not sleep. I re- 
called all the beauties of the work I had just 
heard and before my mind's eye I saw again the 
tall and impressive figure of Berlioz as he directed 
the superb performance in masterly style. 

My life ran on happily and industriously, but 
this did not last. The doctors ordered my 



father to leave Paris, as the climate did not agree 
with him, and to take treatment at Aix-les-Bains 
in Savoy. My mother and father followed this 
advice and went to Chambery taking me with 
them. My artistic career was interrupted, but 
there was nothing else for me to do. 

I stayed at Chambery for two long years ; still 
the life there was not monotonous. I passed the 
time in classical studies, alternating with diligent 
work on scales and arpeggios, sixths and thirds, 
as if I were going to be a fiery pianist. I wore 
my hair ridiculously long, as was the style with 
every virtuoso, and this touch of resemblance 
harmonized with my dreams. It seemed to me 
that wild locks of hair were the complement of 

Between times I took long rambles through the 
delightful country of Savoy which was still ruled 
by the King of Piemont; sometimes I went to the 
Dent de Nicolet, sometimes as far as Les Charm- 
ettes, that picturesque dwelling made famous by 
Jean Jacques Rousseau's stay there. 

During my enforced rustication I found, by 
sheer accident, some of Schumann's works which 
were then little known in France and still less in 
Piemont. I shall always remember that every* 



where I went I did my share by playing a few 
pieces on the piano. I sometimes played that 
exquisite thing entitled Au Soir and that brought 
me one day this singular invitation, "Come and 
amuse us with your Schumann with its detestable 
false notes." It is unnecessary to repeat my 
childish outburst at these words. What would 
the good old people of Savoy say if they could 
hear the music of to-day? 

But the months went on, and on, and on . . < 
until one morning, before the first signs of day- 
break had come over the mountains, I escaped 
from the paternal homestead and started for 
Paris without a sou or even a change of clothes. 
For Paris, the city with every artistic attraction, 
where I should see again my dear Conservatoire, 
my masters, and the "behind the scenes," for the 
memory of them was still with me. 

I knew that in Paris I should find my good 
older sister, who, in spite of her modest means, 
welcomed me as though I were her own child 
and offered me board and lodging; a very simple 
lodging and a very frugal table, but made so 
delightful by the magic of greatest kindliness 
that I felt exactly as though I were in my own 



Imperceptibly my mother forgave me for run- 
ning away to Paris. 

What a good devoted creature my sister was! 
Alas ! she died January 13, 1905, just as she was 
glorying in attending the five hundredth perform- 
ance of Manon, which took place the very evening 
of her death. Nothing can express the sorrow I 

In the space of two years I had made up for 
the time I had lost in Savoy and I had won a 
prize. I was awarded a first prize on the piano, 
as well as one in counterpoint and fugue, on July 
26, 1859. 

I had to compete with ten of my fellow stu- 
dents and by chance my name was number eleven 
in the order. All the contestants were shut up 
in the foyer of the concert hall of the Conserva- 
toire to wait until their names were called. 

For a moment Number Eleven found himself 
alone in the foyer. While waiting for my turn, 
I studied respectfully the portrait of Habeneck, 
the founder and the first conductor of the orches- 
tra of the Societe des Concerts. A red handker- 
chief actually blossomed in his left buttonhole. 
If he had become an officer of the Legion of 



Honor and had several orders to accompany that, 
he certainly would have worn, not a rosette, but 
a rose. 

Then I was called. 

The test piece was the concerto in F minor by 
Ferdinand Hiller. At the time it was pretended 
that his music was so like that of Niels Gade that 
they would think it was Mendelssohn's. 

My good master M. Laurent stayed close to 
the piano. When I had finished concerto and 
sight reading he threw his arms about me with- 
out thought of the public which filled the hall and 
I felt my face grow moist from his dear tears. 

Even at that age, I was apprehensive about suc- 
cess, and during my whole life I have always fled 
from public rehearsals and first nights, thinking 
it better to learn the worst ... as late as pos- 

I raced all the way home, running like a gamin, 
but I found no one there, for my sister had gone 
to the prize contest. However I did not stay 
long, for I finally decided to go back to the Con- 
servatoire. I was so excited that I ran all the 
way. At the corner of the Rue Sainte-Cecile I 
met my boon companion Alphonse Duvernoy, 
whose after career as a teacher and composer was 



most successful, and I fell into his arms. He 
told me what I might have known already, that 
Monsieur Auber had announced the decision for 
the jury, "Monsieur Massenet is awarded the first 
prize on the piano." 

One of the jury was Henri Ravina, a master 
who was one of the dearest friends I ever had, 
and my thoughts go out to him in affectionate 

I scarcely touched the ground in getting from 
the Rue Bergere to the Rue de Bourgogne where 
my excellent master M. Laurent lived. I found 
my old professor at lunch with several generals 
who had been his comrades in the army. 

He had hardly caught sight of me when he 
held out two volumes to me: the orchestral 
score of Le Nozze di Figaro, dramma giocoso 
in quarti atti. Messo in musica dal Signor W . 

The binding bore the arms of Louis XVIII and 
the following superscription in gold letters: 
Menus plaisirs du Roi. ficole royale de mu- 
sique et de declamation. Concours de 1822. 
Premier prix de piano decerne a M. Laurent. 

My honored master had written on the first 



"Thirty-seven years ago I won, as you have 
done, my child, the prize for the piano. I do 
not think that there is any more pleasing gift I 
could give you than this with my sincerest friend- 
ship. Go on as you have begun and you will be 
a great artist. 

"This is the opinion of the jury which to-day 
awarded you this fine reward. 

"Your old friend and professor, 


It was indeed a fine thing for an honored pro- 
fessor to speak like this to a youth who had 
hardly begun his career. 




So I had won the first prize on the piano. I 
was doubtless as fortunate as I was proud, but 
it was out of the question for me to live on the 
memory of this distinction. The necessities of 
life were pressing, inexorable, and they de- 
manded something more real and above all more 
practicable. I really could not go on accepting 
my dear sister's hospitality without contributing 
my personal expenses. So to ease the situation 
I gave lessons in solfeggio and on the piano in a 
poor little school in the neighborhood. The re- 
turns were small, but the labor was great. Thus 
I drew out a precarious and often difficult exist- 
ence. I was offered the post of pianist in one of 
the large cafes in Belleville; it was the first cafe 
to provide music, a scheme invented to hold the 
customers, if not to distract them. The place 
paid me thirty francs a month ! 

Quantum mutatus. . . . Like the poet I may 
say, "What changes since that time?" To-day 
even the young pupils have only to enter a com- 



petition to get their pictures in the papers and at 
the very outset of their careers they are anointed 
great men. All this is accompanied by Baccha- 
nalian lines and they are fortunate if in their ex- 
alted triumph they do not add the word "colos- 
sal." That is glory; deification in all its mod- 
esty. In 1859 we were not glorified in any such 

But Providence some called it Destiny 
watched over me. 

A friend, who to my great joy is still living, 
got me better lessons. He was not like so many 
friends I met later, who are ever in need of one's 
assistance ; those who slink away when you want 
to be comforted in poverty; the friends who are 
always pretending that they defended you last 
night against malevolent attacks in order to show 
you their fine opinions, but at the same time tor- 
turing you by repeating the wounding words di- 
rected at you. I must add, however, that I have 
had truly genuine friendships, as I have found in 
my hours of weariness and discouragement. 

The Theatre-Lyrique was then on the Boule- 
vard du Temple and it gave me a place in its or- 
chestra as kettle-drummer. Then, good Father 
Strauss, the orchestra leader at the Opera balls, 



let me play the bass drum, the kettle-drums, the 
tam-tam, and all the rest of the resonant instru- 
ments. It was dreadfully tiring to sit up every 
Saturday from midnight until six in the morning, 
but all told I managed to make eighty francs a 
month. I felt as rich as a banker and as happy 
as a cobbler. 

The Theatre-Lyrique was founded by the elder 
Alexander Dumas as the Theatre-Historique, and 
was established by Adolphe Adam. 

I was living at the time at No. 5, Rue de Men- 
ilmontant, in a huge building, almost a city in 
itself. My neighbors on the floor, separated 
only by a narrow partition, were the clowns 
both men and women of the Cirque Napoleon 
which was near our house. 

From my attic window I was able to enjoy 
for nothing of course whiffs from the orchestra 
which escaped from the popular concerts that 
Pasdeloup conducted in the circus every Sunday. 
This happened whenever the audience packed in 
the overheated hall shouted loudly for air and 
they opened the casement windows on the third 
floor to satisfy them. 

From my perch that is the only thing to call 
it I applauded with feverish joy the overture of 



Tannhauser, the Symphonie Fantastique, in 
short the music of my gods : Wagner and Berlioz. 

Every evening at six o'clock the theater be- 
gan very early I went by the way of the Rue des 
Fosses-du-Temple, near my house, to the stage 
door of the Theatre-Lyrique. In those days the 
left side of the Boulevard du Temple was one 
unbroken line of theaters. Consequently I went 
along the back of the Funambules, the Petit-La- 
zari, the Delassements-Comiques, the Cirque Im- 
perial and the Gaite. Those who did not know 
that corner of Paris in 1859 can have no idea 
of it. 

The Rue des Fosses-du-Temple, on which all 
the stage doors opened, was a sort of wonderland 
where all the supers, male and female, from all 
the theaters waited in great crowds on the dimly 
lighted pavements. The atmosphere was full of 
vermin and microbes. Even in our Theatre- 
Lyrique the musicians' dressing room was only 
an old stable in which the horses used in his- 
torical plays were kept. 

Still, my delight was too great for words and I 
felt that I was to be envied as I sat in the fine or- 
chestra which Deloffre conducted. Ah! those 
rehearsals of Faust! My happiness could not 



be expressed when, from my own little corner, I 
could leisurely devour with my eyes our great 
Gounod who managed our work from the stage. 

Many times later on when we came out, side 
by side, from the sessions of the Institute 
Gounod lived in the Place Malesherbes we 
talked over the time when Faust now past its 
thousandth performance was such a subject for 
discussion and criticism in the press, while the 
dear public which is rarely deceived ap- 
plauded it. 

Vox Populi, vox Dei! 

I also remember that while I was in the orches- 
tra I assisted at the performances of Reyer's La 
Statue, a superb score and a tremendous success. 

I can still see Reyer in the wings during the 
performances eluding the firemen and smoking 
interminable cigars. It was a habit he could not 
give up. One day I heard him tell about being 
in Abbe Liszt's room in Rome. The walls were 
covered with religious pictures Christ, the Vir- 
gin, and the Saints and he blew out a cloud of 
smoke which filled the room. In reply to his 
witty excuses about incommoding the "august 
persons," he drew the following reply from the 



great abbe. "No," said Liszt, "it is always in- 

For six months, under the same conditions of 
work, I substituted for one of my fellows in the 
orchestra at the Theatre-Italien. 

As I had heard the admirable Mme. Miolan- 
Carvalho in Faust excellent singing I now 
heard the tragediennes like Penco and Frezzolini 
and such men as Mario, Graziani, Delle Sedie, 
and the buffo Zucchini. 

The last is no longer alive and our great Lu- 
cien Fugere of the Opera-Comique of to-day re- 
minds me of him almost exactly. There is the 
same powerful voice and the same perfect artistic 

But the time for the competition of the Insti- 
tute approached. During our residence en loge 
at the Institute we had to pay for our meals for 
twenty-five days and also the rent of a piano. I 
got out of that difficulty as best I could; at any 
rate I forestalled it. All the same the money I been able to put aside was insufficient and 
acting on the advice of a friend (giving and act- 
ing on advice are two entirely different things) 
I went to a pawnshop and pawned my watch . . . 



a gold one. It had adorned my fob since the 
morning of my first communion. Alas ! it must 
have been light weight, for they offered me only 
. . . sixteen francs ! ! ! This odd sum, how- 
ever, enabled me to pay for my meals. 

But the charge for the piano was so exorbi- 
tant twenty francs! that I couldn't afford it. 
I did without it much more easily, for I have 
never needed its help in composing. 

I would have hardly imagined that my neigh- 
bors would have bothered me so by their pound- 
ing on their pianos and by their singing at the 
top of their lungs. It was impossible to divert 
my thoughts or to escape their noise, as I had 
no piano, and, in addition, the corridors of our 
garrets were unusually reverberant. 

On my way to the Saturday sittings of the 
Academic des Beaux- Arts I often cast a sad glance 
at the grated window of my cell; it can be seen 
from the Cour Mazarine to the right in a recess. 
Yes, my glance is sad, for I left behind those old 
bars the dearest and most affecting recollections 
of my youth, and because they cause me to reflect 
on the unhappy times in my long life. 

In the trial competition in 1863 I was exam- 
ined first and I kept the same place in the choral 



work. The first test was in the large hall of the 
cole des Beaux- Arts which is entered from the 
Quai Malaquais. 

The final decision was made the next day in 
the hall used for the regular sittings of the Acad- 
emic des Beaux-Arts. 

My interpreters were Mme. Van den Heuvel- 
Duprez, Roger and Bonnehee, all three from the 
Opera. With such artists I had to triumph. 
And that is what happened ! 

I went in first there were six competitors 
and as at that time one could not listen to the 
work of the other candidates I went wander- 
ing haphazard down to the Rue Mazarine . . . 
on the Pont des Arts . . . and, finally, in the 
square court of the Louvre where I sat down on 
one of the iron seats. 

I heard five o'clock strike. I was very anx- 
ious. "All must be over by now," I said to my- 
self. I had guessed right, for suddenly I saw 
under the arch three people chatting together 
and recognized Berlioz, Ambroise Thomas and 
Monsieur Auber. 

Flight was impossible. They were in front 
of me almost as if they barred my escape. 

Ambroise Thomas, my beloved master, came 


towards me and said, "Embrace Berlioz, you owe 
him a great deal for your prize." 

"The prize" I cried, bewildered, my face shin- 
ing with joy. "I have the prize!!!" I was 
deeply moved and I embraced Berlioz, then my 
master, and finally Monsieur Auber. 

Monsieur Auber comforted me. Did I need 
comforting? Then he said to Berlioz pointing 

"He'll go far, the young rascal, when he's had 
less experience!" 




The winners of the Grand Prix de Rome for 
1863 in painting, sculpture, architecture, and 
engraving, were Layraud and Monchablon, Bour- 
geois, Brune and Chaplain. Custom decreed 
it still does that we should all go to the Villa 
Medici together and should visit Italy. What a 
changed and ideal life mine now was ! The Min- 
ister of Finance sent me six hundred francs and 
a passport in the name of Napoleon III, signed 
by Drouyns de Luys, Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

I then met my new companions and we went 
to pay the formal calls on the members of the 
Institute before our departure for the Academic 
de France at Rome. 

On the day after Christmas, in three open car- 
riages, we started to pay our official calls which 
took us into every quarter of Paris where our 
patrons lived. 

The three carriages, crowded with young men, 
real rapins, I had almost said gamins, mad with 



success and intoxicated by thoughts of the future, 
made a veritable scandal in the streets. 

Nearly all the gentlemen of the Institute sent 
out word that they were not at home to avoid 
making a speech. M. Hirtoff, the famous archi- 
tect, who lived in the Rue Lamartine, put on less 
airs and shouted out to his servant from his bed- 
room, "Tell them I'm not in." 

I recall that of old the professors accompanied 
their pupils as far as the starting place of the 
diligences in the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Victoires. 
One day as the heavy diligence with the students 
packed on the rear the cheapest places which 
exposed them to all the dust of the road was 
about to start on the long journey from Paris to 
Rome, M. Couder, Louis Philippe's favorite 
painter, was heard to say impressively to his spe- 
cial pupil, "Above all don't forget my style." 
This was a delightfully nai've remark, but it was 
touching nevertheless. He was the painter of 
whom the king said, after he had given him an 
order for the museum at Versailles, "M. Couder 
pleases me. His drawing is correct; his coloring 
satisfies, and he is not dear." 

Oh, the good, simple times, when words meant 
what they seemed to and admiration was just 



without that deifying bombast that is so readily 
heaped on one to-day! 

I broke the custom and went on alone after 
making arrangements to meet my comrades on 
the road to Genoa where I would overtake them 
driving an enormous coach drawn by five horses. 
My plans were first to stop at Nice, where my 
father was buried, and then to go to embrace my 
mother who was living at Bordighera. She had 
a modest villa in a pleasant location in a forest 
of palms overlooking the sea. I spent New 
Year's with my mother, the anniversary of my 
father's death, hours filled to overflowing with 
tenderness. All too soon I had to leave her, for 
my joyous comrades awaited me in their carriage 
on the road of the Italian La Corniche. My tears 
turned to laughter. Such is youth ! 

Our first stop was at Loano about eight o'clock 
in the evening. 

I have confessed that I was almost gay and 
this is true. Nevertheless I was a prey to in- 
definite thoughts; I felt myself almost a man, 
henceforth to be alone in life. I pondered over 
such thoughts, too reasonable perhaps for my 
years, while Italy's blossoming mimosas, lemon 
trees and myrtles threw around me their sweet 



disturbing odors. What a pleasant contrast it 
was for me who until then had only known the 
sour smell of the faubourgs of Paris, the trampled 
grass of their fortifications, and the perfume I 
mean perfume of my beloved wings of the 

We spent two days in Genoa visiting the 
Campo-Santo, the city's cemetery, so rich in the 
finest marble monuments, reputed to be the most 
beautiful in Italy. After that who can deny that 
self-esteem survives after death? 

Next I found myself one morning on the Place 
du Dome at Milan walking with my companion 
Chaplain, the famous engraver of medallions, 
and later my confrere at the Institute. We 
shared our enthusiasms before the marvellous 
cathedral of white marble dedicated to the Vir- 
gin by that terrible partisan leader Jean Galeas 
Visconti as a repentance for his life. "In that 
epoch of faith the world covered itself with white 
robes," thus spake Bossuet whose weighty elo- 
quence comes back to me. 

We were completely carried away by Leonardo 
da Vinci's "Last Supper." We found it in a 
large hall which the Austrian soldiers had used as 
a stable and they had cut a door Horrors! 



Abomination of abominations! in the central 
panel of the picture. 

The masterpiece is gradually fading away. 
In time it will have entirely disappeared, but it 
is not like "La Giaconda" easier to carry away 
than the wall thirty feet high on which it is 

We went through Verona and made the obliga- 
tory pilgrimage to the tomh of Juliet, the be- 
loved of Romeo. That excursion satisfies the 
inmost feelings of every young man in love with 
Love. Then Vienza, Padua, where, while I was 
looking at Giotto's paintings on the story of 
Christ, I had an intuition that Mary Magdalene 
would occupy my life some day, and then Venice ! 

Venice ! One might have told me that I still 
lived although I would not have believed it, so 
unreal were the hours I passed in that matchless 
city. As we had no Baedeker his guide was 
too costly for us it was only through a sort of 
divination that we discovered all the wonders of 
Venice without directions. 

My companions admired a painting by Palma 
Vecchio in a church whose name they did not 
know. How was I to find it among the ninety 
churches in Venice? I got into my gondola 



alone and said to my "barcaiollo" that I was go- 
ing to Saint Zacharie ; but I did not find the pic- 
ture, a Santa Barbara, so I had him take me to 
another saint. A new deception ! As this kept 
repeating and threatened never to end, my gon- 
dolier laughingly showed me another church 
All Saints and said to me, mockingly, "Go in 
there; you'll surely find yours." 

I pass over Pisa and Florence which I shall de- 
scribe in detail later. 

When we came near the Papal territory, we 
decided to add a picturesque touch to our journey 
and instead of entering Rome in the conventional 
way by Ponte-Moll, the ancient witness of the de- 
feat of Maxentius and the glorification of Chris- 
tianity, we took a steamer from Leghorn to Civ- 
itta Vecchia. It was the first sea voyage that I 
went through . . . almost decently, thanks to 
some oranges which I kept in my mouth all the 

At last we reached Rome by the railroad from 
Civitta Vecchia to the Eternal City. It was the 
pensionnaires' dinner hour and they were non- 
plussed at seeing us, for we had deprived them 
of a holiday in going to meet our coach on the 
Flammian Way. Our welcome was spontane- 



ous. A special dinner was hastily got together 
and this started the jokes practised on newcom- 
ers, who were called "Les Affreux Nouveaux" 

As a musician I was instructed to go bell in 
hand to call dinner through the numerous walks 
of the Villa Medici, now plunged in darkness. 
As I did not know the way, I fell into a fountain. 
Naturally the bell stopped ringing and the board- 
ers, who were listening to the sound and re- 
joicing in the fun, burst into hearty laughter at 
the sudden cessation of the noise. They under- 
stood what had happened and came to fish me 

I had paid my first debt, the debt of entrance 
to the Villa Medici. Night was to bring other 

The dining room of the pensionnaires, which 
I found so pleasant the next day, was trans- 
formed into a den of bandits. The servants, 
who ordinarily wore the green livery of the Em- 
peror, were dressed as monks with short blunder- 
busses across their shoulders and with pistols in 
their belts. Their false noses were modeled by 
a sculptor and were painted red. The pine table 
was stained with wine and covered with dirt. 

Our seniors wore proud and haughty looks, 


but this did not prevent them, at a given signal, 
from telling us that while the food was simple, 
all lived in the most fraternal harmony. Sud- 
denly, after a discussion of art which was carried 
on facetiously, there was a hub-bub and amid 
frightful shouts all the plates and bottles went 
flying through the air. 

At a signal from one of the supposed monks 
there was instant silence and we heard the voice 
of the oldest pensionnaire, Henner, saying 
gravely, "Here all is harmony." 

It was well that we knew we were the butts for 
jokes. I was a little embarrassed. I did not 
dare to move, and I sat with my head down, 
staring at the table, where I read the name of 
Herold, the author of the Pre aux Clercs, cut with 
a knife when he was a pensionnaire at this same 




As I had foreseen and gathered from the mean- 
ing looks which the pensionnaires exchanged, 
another joke, the masterpiece of the hazing, was 
arranged for us. We had hardly left the table 
when the pensionnaires wrapped themselves in 
the huge capes that were fashionable in Rome 
at the time and obliged us, before we went to 
rest in the rooms assigned to us, to take a con- 
stitutional (Was it really necessary?) to the 
Forum, the ancient Forum which all our mem- 
ories of school recalled to us. 

We knew nothing of Rome by night, or by 
day for that matter, but we walked on surrounded 
by our new school fellows who acted as guides. 
It was a January night and very dark, and favor- 
able for the schemes of our cicerones. When 
we got near the Capitol, we could scarcely dis- 
tinguish the outlines of the temples in the hol- 
lows of the famous Campo Vaccino. Their re- 
productions in the Louvre are still one of the 
masterpieces of Claude Lorrain. 




In those days, under the rule of His Holiness 

Pope Pius IX, no official excavations had been 
begun even in the Forum. The famous place 
was only a heap of stones and shafts of columns 
buried in the weeds on which herds of goats 
browsed. These pretty creatures were watched 
over by goatherds in large hats and wrapped in 
great black cloaks with green linings, the or- 
dinary costume of the peasant of the Roman cam- 
pagna. They were armed with long pikes to 
drive off the wild cattle which splashed about in 
the Ostian marshes. 

Our companions made us cross the ruins of 
the basilica of Constantine. We could just 
make out the immense coffered vaults. Our ad- 
miration changed to fright when we found our- 
selves a moment later in a place entirely sur- 
rounded by walls of indescribably colossal pro- 
portions. In the middle of this place was a 
large cross on a pedestal formed by steps a sort 
of Calvary. When I reached this point, I could 
no longer see my companions and on turning 
back I found that I was alone in the middle of 
the gigantic amphitheater of the Colosseum in a 
silence which seemed frightful to me. 

I tried to find a way which would lead me back 


to the streets where some late but complacent 
passerby might direct me to the Villa Medici. 
But my search was in vain. I was so exasper- 
ated by my fruitless attempts that I fell on one of 
the steps of the cross overcome by weariness. 
I cried like a child. It was quite excusable, for 
I was worn out with exhaustion. 

Finally, daylight appeared. Its rays showed 
me that I had gone round and round like a squir- 
rel in a cage and had come across nothing save 
the stairways to the upper tiers. When one 
thinks of the eighty tiers which in the time of 
Imperial Rome held a hundred thousand spec- 
tators, this round of mine could easily have been 
endless for me. But the sunrise was my salva- 
tion. After a few steps I was happy to see that, 
like Little Tom Thumb lost in the woods, I was 
following the path which would take me on the 
right road. 

I reached the Villa Medici at last and took pos- 
session of the room which had been reserved for 
me. The window looked out on the Avenue du 
Pincio; my horizon was the whole of Rome and 
ended in the outlines of the dome of St. Peter's 
at the Vatican. The Director, M. Schnetz, a 
member of the Institute, took me to my room. 



He was tall and he had willingly wrapped him- 
self in a capacious dressing gown and had put 
on a Greek cap bedizened, like the gown, with 
magnificent gold tassels. M. Schnetz was the 
last of that generation of great painters which 
had a special reverence for the country about 
Rome. His studies and pictures were con- 
ceived in the midst of the Sabine brigands. His 
strong, determined appearance made his hosts in 
his adventurous wanderings respect and fear him. 
He was a perfect father to all the children of 
the Academic de France at Rome. 

The bell for luncheon sounded. This time it 
was the real cook who rang it and not I who had 
been so kindly given the duty the evening before. 
The dining room had taken on its comfortable 
every-day appearance. Our companions were 
positively affectionate. The servants were no 
longer the pseudo monks we had seen at the first 
meal. I learned that I had not been the only 
one to be hoaxed. 

The Carnival festivities at Rome were just end- 
ing with their wild bacchanalian revelries. 
While they were not so famous as those of Venice, 
they had, nevertheless, just as much dash and 
life. Their setting was altogether different 



more majestic if not more appropriate. We all 
participated in a large car built by our architects 
and decorated by our sculptors. We spent the 
day in throwing confetti and flowers at all the 
lovely Roman girls, who replied with bewitching 
smiles from their palace balconies on the Corso. 
Surely when Michelet wrote his brilliant and 
poetic study La Femme, the sequel to his 
U Amour, he must have had in his mind's eye, as 
we saw them in life, these types of rare, sparkling 
and fascinating beauty. 

What changes have taken place in Rome since 
such careless freedom and gaiety were the usual 
thing! The superb Italian regiments march on 
this same Corso to-day, and the rows of shops for 
the most part belong to German shopkeepers. 

Progress! How many are thy blows! 

One day the Director told us that Hippolyte 
Flandrin, the famous leader of the religious 
movement in Nineteenth Century Art, had 
reached Rome the night before and wanted to 
meet the students. 

I little thought that forty-six years later I 
should recall this visit in the speech I would de- 
liver as president of the Institute and the Acad- 
emic des Beaux Arts. 



In this speech I said: 

"On the Pincio, opposite the Academic de 
France, is a small bubbling fountain shaped like 
an ancient vase, which, beneath a bower of green 
oaks, stands out against the horizon with its fine 
lines. There, when after thirty-two years he 
returned to Rome a great artist, Hippolyte Flan- 
drin, before he entered the temple, dipped his 
fingers as in a holy font and crossed himself." 

The sorrow stricken arts to which he had con- 
tributed so much went into mourning at almost 
the very moment we were getting ready to go to 
thank him officially for his consideration of us. 
He lived in the Piazza della Spagna, near the 
Villa Medici where he wanted to be. In the 
church of Santa Luigi della Francese we laid on 
his coffin wreaths of laurel from the garden of 
the Villa, which, as a student, he had loved so 
well. He was a comrade at the Villa of his be- 
loved musician Ambroise Thomas, whom he saw 
for the last time at the height of his glory. . . . 

Some days later Falguiere, Chaplain and I 
started for Naples, by carriage as far as Pales- 
trina, on foot to Terracina, at the southern end 
of the Pontian marshes, then again by carriage to 
Naples! . . . 




What never to be forgotten times they were 
for youthful artists, when we shared our enthu- 
siasms for all we saw in these pleasantly pictur- 
esque villages a picturesqueness which has cer- 
tainly gone by now. 

Our lodgings were in the most primitive inns. 
I remember that one night I was greatly disturbed 
by the feeling that my neighbor in the garret had 
set the miserable hovel on fire. Falguiere had 
the same idea too. It was only imagination. 
It was the bright starlight shining through the 
dilapidated ceiling. 

As we passed through the woods of Subiacco, 
a shepherd's zampogna (a sort of rustic bagpipe) 
sounded a burst of melody which I presently 
noted down on a bit of paper loaned me by a 
Benedictine monk in a neighboring monastery. 
These measures became the first notes of Marie- 
Magdeleine, the sacred drama which I was al- 
ready planning for my first venture. 



I still have the sketch Chaplain made of me 
at the moment. 

As was the custom in the olden times of the 
pensionnaires of the Villa Medici, we lodged in 
Naples at the Casa Combi, an old house over- 
looking the Quay Santa Lucia. The fifth floor 
was reserved for us. It was an old ruin with a 
pink rough-cast front and windows framed in 
mouldings shaped in small figures and cleverly 
painted, like those one sees all over Italy as soon 
as one crosses the Var. 

A vast room held our three beds. As for the 
dressing room and the rest, they were on the bal- 
cony, where, according to the local custom, we 
hung our clothes to dry. 

In order to travel as comfortably as possible, 
we had rigged ourselves out at Rome with three 
suits of white flannel with blue stripes. 

Risum teneatis, as that delightful poet Horace 
would have said. First, listen to this. 

From the moment of our arrival at the station 
in Naples we were watched with surprising per- 
severance by the gendarmes. In addition, the 
passersby observed us with the utmost astonish- 
ment. We were intensely curious and won- 
dered what the reason was for all this. We did 


Massenet at Egreville 


not have long to wait. Our landlady, Marietta, 
told us that the Neapolitan convicts wore almost 
exactly the same costume. The laughter which 
greeted this revelation led us to complete the re- 
semblance. So we went to the Cafe Royal in 
the Piazza S. Ferdinando, the three of us drag- 
ging our right legs as if they were fastened to a 
ball and chain as the convicts were. 

We almost lived in the galleries of the Bor- 
bonico Museum during our first days in Naples. 
The most wonderful of the discoveries in the 
ruins of Herculanum, Pompeii, and their neigh- 
bor Stabies had been placed there. We were as- 
tonished at it all, enraptured, charmed by end- 
less and ever new discoveries. 

In passing I must recall our dutiful ascent of 
Vesuvius, whose plume of smoke we could see 
in the distance. We came back carrying our 
burned shoes in our hands and with our feet 
wrapped in flannel which we had bought at Torre 
del Greco. 

We took our meals at Naples on the seashore 
on the Quay Santa Lucia, almost opposite our 
house. For twelve grani, about eight sous, we 
had an exquisite soup of shellfish, fish fried in 
an oil which had been used for that purpose for 



two or three years at least, and a glass of Capri 

Then, there were walks to Castellamare at the 
end of the Gulf of Naples, where we enjoyed a 
wonderful view; and to Sorrento so rich in orange 
trees that the arms of the city are interwoven in 
the form of a crown of orange leaves. At Sor- 
rento we saw where Tasso was born the famous 
Italian poet, the immortal author of "Jerusalem 

A simple terra cotta bust decorates the front 
of this half ruined house! Thence to Amalfi, 
once almost the rival of Venice in the size of its 

If Napoleon got the itch through handling the 
gun sponge of a dirty artilleryman, we owe it to 
the truth to state that the morning after we 
passed the night in the place all three of us were 
covered with lice. We had to have our heads 
shaved, which added to our resemblance to con- 

We were somewhat consoled for this adven- 
ture by sailing to Capri. We left Amalfi at four 
o'clock in the morning, but We did not reach 
Capri until ten at night. The island is delight- 
ful and the views bewitching. The top of Mount 



Solaro is 1800 feet above the sea and about nine 
and a half miles around. The view is one of the 
most beautiful and extensive in all Italy. 

We were overtaken by a frightful storm on 
our way to Capri. The boat was loaded with a 
large quantity of oranges and the wild waves 
swept over everything to the great despair of 
the sailors who outshouted each other in calling 
on St. Joseph, the patron saint of Naples. 

There is a pretty legend that St. Joseph, 
grieved by the departure of Jesus and the Virgin 
Mary for Heaven, ordered his Son to come back 
to him. Jesus obeyed and came back with all 
the saints in Paradise. The Virgin came back, 
too, to the conjugal roof escorted by eleven thou- 
sand virgins. When the Lord saw Paradise de- 
populated in this way and not wanting to put 
St. Joseph iii the wrong, he declared that the lat- 
ter was the stronger and so Heaven was repopu- 
lated by his permission. The veneration of the 
Neapolitans for St. Joseph is surprising, as the 
following detail illustrates. 

In the Eighteenth Century the streets of 
Naples were hardly safe, and it was dangerous to 
pass through them at night. The king had lan- 
terns placed at the worst corners to light the 



passersby, but the birbanti broke them as they 
found they interfered with their nocturnal deeds. 
Whereupon some one was struck with the idea of 
placing an image of St. Joseph beside each lan- 
tern, and thereafter they were respected to the 
great joy of the people. 

To be in and live in Capri is the most ideal ex- 
istence that one can dream of. I brought back 
from there page after page of the works which I 
intended to write later. 

Autumn saw us back in Rome. 

At that time I wrote my beloved master Am- 
broise Thomas as follows : 

"Last Sunday Bourgault got up an entertain- 
ment to which he invited twenty Transteverins 
and Transteverines plus six musicians, also 
from the Transtervere. All in costume! 

"The weather was fine and the scene was sim- 
ply wonderful when we were in the 'Bosco,' my 
sacred grove. The setting sun lighted up the 
old walls of ancient Rome. The entertainment 
ended in Falguiere's studio, lighted a giorno, 
our doing. There the dance became so capti- 
vating and intoxicating that we finished vis-a-vis 
to the Transteverines in the final salturrele. 
They all smoked, ate, and drank the women es- 
pecially liked our punch." 



One of the greatest and most thrilling periods 
of my life was now at hand. It was Christmas 
Eve. We arranged an outing so that we might 
follow the midnight masses in the churches. 
The night ceremonies at Sainte Marie Majeure 
and at Saint Jean de Latran impressed me most. 
Shepherds with their flocks, cows, goats, sheep 
and pigs were in the public square, as if to re- 
ceive the benediction of the Savior, recalling in 
this way His birth in a manger. The touching 
simplicity of these beliefs really affected me and 
I entered Sainte Marie Majeure accompanied by 
a lovely goat which I embraced and which did 
not want to leave me. This in no way aston- 
ished any of the crowd of men and women packed 
in that church, kneeling on those beautiful Mo- 
saic pavements, between a double row of columns 
relics taken from the ancient temples. 

The next day a day to be marked with a 
cross on the staircase with its three hundred 
steps which leads to the church of Ara Coeli, I 
passed two women, obviously fashionable for- 
eigners. I was especially charmed by the ap- 
pearance of the younger. Several days later I 
was at Liszt's who was preparing for his ordina- 



tion, and I recognized among the famous mas- 
ter's visitors the two women whom I had seen at 
Ara Coeli. 

I learned almost at once that the younger had 
come to Rome with her family on a sightseeing 
trip and that she had been recommended to Liszt 
so that he might select for her a musician capable 
of directing her studies. She did not want to 
interrupt them while she was away from Paris. 
Liszt at once proposed me. I was a pensionnaire 
at the Academic de France and was supposed to 
work there, so that I did not want to devote my 
time to lessons. The young girl's charm, how- 
ever, overcame my reluctance. 

You may have already guessed that this beau- 
tiful girl was the one who was to become my wife 
two years later, the ever-attentive, often-worried 
companion of my life, the witness of my weak- 
nesses as well as of my bursts of energy, of my 
sorrows and my joys. With her I have gone 
up the steps of life, already long, but not so 
steep as those which led to Ara Coeli, that altar 
of the skies which recalls to Rome the pure and 
cloudless celestial abodes, which have led me 
along a way sometimes difficult and where the 



roses have been gathered in the midst of thorns. 
But is not life always so? 

In the following spring came the pension- 
naires' annual entertainment, which took place as 
was customary at Castel Fusano on the Roman 
Campagna, a couple of miles from Ostia in a 
magnificent pine forest divided by an avenue of 
beautiful evergreen oaks. I brought away with 
me such an agreeable remembrance of the day 
that I advised my fiancee and her family to make 
the acquaintance of this incomparable spot. 

In that splendid avenue paved with old marble 
slabs I recalled Gaston Boissier's story, in his 
"Promenades Archelogiques," of Nisus and 
Euraylus, those unfortunate young men who were 
sent to their downfall by Volscens, as he came 
from Laurentium, to bring part of his troops to 

The thought that in December my two years' 
stay would be up and that I would have to leave 
the Villa Medici and return to France made me 
extremely sad. I wanted to see Venice again. 
I stayed there two months and during the time 
I jotted down the rough sketch of my first Suite 



I noted the strange and beautiful notes of the 
Austrian trumpets which sounded every evening 
as they closed the gates for the night. And I 
used them twenty-five years later in the fourth 
act of Le Cid. 

My comrades bade me good-by on December 
seventeenth, not only at the last sad dinner at 
our large table, but also at the station in the 
evening. I had given over the day to packing, 
gazing meditatively the while at the bed in which 
I should never sleep again. 

All the souvenirs of my two years in Rome 
palms from Palm Sunday, a drum from the 
Transtevere, my mandolin, a wooden Virgin, a 
few sprays and branches from the Villa's garden, 
all my souvenirs of a past which would be with 
me always, went into my trunk with my clothes. 
The French Embassy paid the carriage. 

I was unwilling to leave my window until the 
setting sun had disappeared behind St. Peter's. 
It seemed as if Rome in its turn took refuge in 
shadow a shadow which bade me farewell. 




My comrades went with me to the station "del 
Termini," hard by the Diocletian ruins. They 
did not leave until we had embraced warmly and 
they stayed until my train disappeared beyond 
the horizon. Happy beings! they would sleep 
that night at the Academic, while I was alone, 
torn by the emotions of leaving, numbed by the 
keen, icy December cold, shrouded in memories, 
and, unless fatigue aided me, unable to sleep. 
Next day I was in Florence. 

I wanted to see again this city with the richest 
collections of art in Italy. I went to the Pitti 
Palace, one of the wonders of Florence. In go- 
ing through the galleries it seemed to me as 
though I were not alone, but that the living re- 
membrance of my comrades was with me, that 
I was a witness of their enthusiasms and raptures 
before all the masterpieces piled in that splendid 
palace. I saw again the Titians, the Tintorets, 
the works of Leonardo, the Veronese, the Michel 
Angelos, and the Raphaels. 



With what delightfully charmed eyes I ad- 
mired anew that priceless treasure, Raphael's 
masterpiece of painting, the "Madonna della 
sedella," then the "Temptation of St. Anthony" 
by Salvator Rosa placed in the Hall of Ulysses, 
and in the Hall of Flora Canova's "Venus," 
mounted on a revolving base. I studied, too, 
the works of Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck. 

From the Pitti Palace I went to be astounded 
anew by the Strozzi Palace, the most beautiful 
type of Florentine palace. Its cornice, attrib- 
uted to Simon Pollajo, is the most beautiful 
known to modern times. I saw once more the 
Buboli gardens, beside the Pitti Palace, designed 
by Tribolo and Buontalenti. 

I finished the day with a walk in the so-called 
Bois de Boulogne de Florence, the Cascine Walk, 
at the western gate of Florence, between the right 
bank of the Arno and the railroad. It is the 
favorite walk of the elegant and fashionable 
world of Florence, the city called the Athens of 
Italy. I remember that evening had already 
fallen and as I was without my watch I had 
left it at the hotel I asked a peasant I met on the 
road what time it was. The answer I received 
was so poetically turned that I can never forget it, 




"Sono le sette, Varia ne treme ancor! . . ." 

"It is seven o'clock. The air still trembles 
from the sound." 

I left Florence to continue my trip by the way 
of Pisa. 

Pisa seemed to me as depopulated as if it had 
been swept by the plague. When one considers 
that in the Middle Ages it was a rival of Genoa, 
Florence, and Venice, one feels puzzled by the 
comparative desolation that envelops it. I re- 
mained alone for nearly an hour on the Piazza del 
Duomo, looking with curiosity on the master- 
pieces which raise their artistic beauty there, the 
Cathedral or Le Dome de Pisa, the Campanile, 
better known as the Leaning Tower, and last, the 

Between the Dome and the Baptistiere 
stretches the Campo Santo, the famous cemetery. 
The earth for this cemetery was brought from 

It seemed to me that the Leaning Tower was 
only waiting until I had passed, unlike the Cam- 
panile of Venice, in order to bring down deadly 
destruction on me. On the contrary, it appears 
that the tower, which aided Galileo in making his 
famous experiments on gravitation, was never 



more secure. This is proved by the fact that 
the seven great bells which sound in full swing 
several times a day have never affected the 
strength of this curious structure. 

Here I come to the most interesting part of my 
journey after I left Pisa, huddled under the top 
of the diligence, which followed the shores of the 
Mediterranean, by Spezzia as far as Genoa. 
What an unreal journey that one of mine was 
along the ancient Roman Way on the top of the 
rocks which overlook the sea! I journeyed as 
though I were in the car of a capricious balloon. 

All the way the road skirted the sea, some- 
times cutting through forests of olives, and again 
rising over the tops of the hills where one over- 
looked a wide horizon. 

It was picturesque everywhere; there was al- 
ways a variety of astonishing views along this 
way. Traveling as I did by the light of a mag- 
nificent moon, it was most ideally beautiful in its 
originality with its villages in which one saw at 
times a lighted window in the distance and this 
sea into which one could see to fathomless depths. 

During this journey it seemed to me that I had 
never accumulated so many ideas and projects, 
obsessed as I was by the thought that in a few 



hours I would be back in Paris and that my life 
was about to commence. 

I traveled from Genoa to Paris by rail. 
When one is young, one sleeps so well! I woke 
up shivering. It was freezing. The piercing 
cold of the night had covered the car windows 
with frosty ornaments. 

We went by Montereau, and Paris was almost 
in sight! I could not imagine then that some 
years later I should own a summer house in this 
country near figreville. 

What a contrast between the beautiful sky of 
Italy, that eternally beautiful sky, sung by the 
poets, which I had just left, and the one I saw 
again, so dark, gray, and sullen ! 

When I had paid for my journey and a few 
small expenses, I had left in my pockets the sum 
of ... two francs! 

How joyful I was, when I reached my sister's 
house ! Also, what unforeseen good fortune ! 

It was raining in torrents and my precious two 
francs went to buy that indispensable vade 
mecum, an umbrella. I had not needed one dur- 
ing my entire stay in Italy. Protected from the 
weather I went to the Ministry of Finance where 
I knew I should find my allowance for the first 



quarter of the new year. At this time the hold- 
ers of the Grand Prix enjoyed a pension of three 
thousand francs a year. I was still entitled to it 
for three years. What good luck! 

The good friend, whom I have already men- 
tioned, had been forewarned of my return and 
had rented a room for me on the fifth floor of 
No. 14, Rue Taitbout. From the calm and quiet 
beauty of my room at the Academic, I had fallen 
into the midst of busy, noisy Paris. 

Ambroise Thomas introduced me to wealthy 
friends who gave famous musical evening enter- 
tainments. I saw there for the first time Leo 
Delibes, whose ballet La Source had already won 
him a great reputation at the Opera. I saw him 
direct a delightful chorus sung by fashionable 
ladies and I whispered to myself, "I, too, will 
write a chorus. And it will be sung." Indeed 
it was, but by four hundred male voices. I had 
won the first prize in the Ville de Paris com- 

My acquaintance with the poet Armand Sil- 
vestre dates from this time. By chance he was 
my neighbor on the top of an omnibus, and, one 
thing leading to another, we got down the best 



of friends. He saw that I was a good listener, 
and he told me some of the most drolly im- 
proper stories, in which he excelled. But to my 
mind the poet surpassed the story teller and a 
month later I had written the Poeme d'Avril, in- 
spired by the exquisite verses in his first book. 

As I speak of the Poeme d'Avril, I remember 
the fine impression it made on Reyer. He urged 
me to take it to a publisher. Armed with a too 
flattering letter from him I went to Choudens to 
whom he recommended me. After four futile 
attempts I was finally received by the wealthy 
publisher of Faust. But I was not even to show 
my little manuscript. I was immediately shown 
out. The same sort of reception awaited me at 
Flaxland's, the publisher, Place de la Madeleine, 
and also at Brandus's, the owner of Meyerbeer's 
works. I considered this altogether natural, for 
I was absolutely unknown. 

As I was going back (not too bitterly disap- 
pointed) to my fifth floor on the Rue Taitbout, 
with my music in my pocket, I was accosted by a 
fair, tall young man, with a kindly, intelligent 
face, who said to me: "Yesterday I opened a 
music store near here in the Boulevard de la 



Madeleine. I know who you are and I am ready 
to publish anything you like." It was Georges 
Hartmann, my first publisher. 

All I had to do was to take my hand from my 
pocket and give him the Poeme d'Avril which 
had just received such a poor reception else- 

It is true that I made nothing out of it, but 
how much I would have given had I had it to 
have it published. A few months later lovers of 
music were singing: 

Quon passe en aimant! 
Que Vheure est done breve 

As yet I had neither honor nor money, but I 
certainly had a good deal of encouragement. 

Cholera was raging in Paris. I fell ill and 
the neighbors were afraid to come and see how 
I was. However, Ambroise Thomas learned of 
my dangerous illness and my helpless distress 
and visited me in my room accompanied by his 
doctor, the Emperor's physician. This brave 
and fatherly act on the part of my beloved mas- 
ter affected me so much that I fainted in bed. I 
must add that this illness was only fleeting and 
that I finished ten pieces for the piano for which 



Girod, the publisher, paid me two hundred 
francs. A louis a page! To that benevolent 
publisher I owed the first money I made from 

The health of Paris improved. 

On the eighth of October I was married in the 
little old church in the village of Avon near 

My wife's brother and my new cousin, the 
eminent violinist Armingaud, the founder of the 
famous quartet, were my witnesses. However, 
there were others too. A flock of sparrows came 
in through a broken window and out-chirped 
one another so that we could scarcely hear the 
words of the good cure. 

His words were a kindly homage to my new 
companion and encouragement for my still un- 
certain future. 

After the wedding ceremony we walked in the 
beautiful forest of Fontainebleau, where I seemed 
to hear, in the midst of the magnificence of na- 
ture, verdant and purple in the warm rays of the 
bright sun, caressed by the songs of the birds, the 
words of that great poet Alfred de Musset: 



"Aime et tu renaitrais ; fais-toi fleur pour 

We left Avon to pass a week at the seashore, 
in a charming solitude a deux, often the most en- 
viable solitude. While I was there, I corrected 
the proofs of the Poeme d'Avril and the ten piano 

To correct proofs ! To see my music in print ! 
Had my career as a composer really begun? 




On my return to Paris I lived with my wife's 
family in a lovely apartment whose brightness 
was calculated to delight the eye and charm the 
thoughts. Ambroise Thomas sent me word that 
at his request the directors of the Opera-Comique, 
Ritt and de Lewen, wanted to entrust to me a 
one-act work. This was La Gran T ante, an 
opera-comique by Jules Adenis and Charles 

This was bewildering good fortune and I was 
almost overcome by it. To-day I regret that at 
that time I was unable to put into the work all of 
myself that I might have wished. The prelim- 
inary rehearsals began the next year. How 
proud I was when I received my first notices of 
rehearsals and when I sat in the same place on 
the famous stage which had known Boi'eldieu, 
Herold, M. Auber, Ambroise Thomas, Victor 
Masse, Gounod, Meyerbeer! . . . 



I was about to learn an author's trials. But I 
was so happy in doing so ! 

A first work is the first cross of honor. A first 

I had everything except the cross. 

The first cast was: Marie Roze, in all the 
splendor of her youthful beauty and talent ; Vic- 
tor Capoul, the idol of the public; and Mile. 
Girard, the spirited singer and actress, the de- 
light of the Opera-Comique. 

We were ready to go on the stage when the 
cast was upset. Marie Roze was taken away 
from me and replaced by a seventeen year old 
beginner, Marie Heilbronn, the artist to whom I 
was to entrust the creation of Manon seventeen 
years later. 

At the first rehearsal with the orchestra I was 
unconscious of what was going on, I was so deeply 
absorbed in listening to this and that, in fact to 
all the sonorousness of the work, which did not 
prevent me, however, telling every one that I 
was entirely pleased and satisfied. 

I had the courage to attend the first perform- 
ance in the wings, which reminded me of Ber- 
lioz's UEnjance du Christ which I had attended 



That evening was both exciting and amusing. 

I spent the entire afternoon in feverish agita- 

I stopped at every poster to look at the fascinat- 
ing words so large with promise : 

First Performance of La Grand 'Tante 
Opera-Comique in One Act 

I had to wait to read the authors' names. 
That would come only with the announcement 
of the second performance. 

We served as a curtain raiser for the great suc- 
cess of the moment, La Voyage en Chine by La- 
biche and Frangois Bazin. 

I had been a pupil of the latter for a brief 
while at the Conservatoire. His pilgrimages to 
the land of the Celestials had not deprived his 
teaching of that hard, unamiable form which I 
suffered from with him, and I left his class in 
harmony a month after I joined it. I went into 
the class of Henri Reber of the Institute. He 
was a fine, exquisite musician, of the race of 
Eighteenth Century masters. All his music 
breathed forth pleasant memories. 

One fine Friday evening in April, at half-past 
seven, the curtain rose at the Opera-Comique. 



I was in the wings near my dear frien3 Jules 
Adenis. My heart throbbed with anxiety, seized 
by that mystery to which for the first time I gave 
myself body and soul, as to an unknown God. 
To-day that seems a little exaggerated, rather 

The piece had just begun, when we heard a 
burst of laughter from the audience. "Listen, 
mo/I ami, what a splendid start," said Adenis. 
"The audience is amused." 

The audience was indeed amused, but this is 
what happened. The scene opened in Brittany 
on a stormy, tempestuous night. Mile. Girard 
had faced the audience and sung a prayer, when 
Capoul entered, speaking these words from the 

"What a country ! What a wilderness ! Not 
a soul in sight!" when he saw Mile. Girard's back 
and cried : 

"At last . . . There's a face!" 

He had scarcely uttered this expression when 
the roars of laughter we had heard broke loose. 

However, the piece went on without further 

They encored Mile. Girard's song, Les filles 
de la Rochelle. 



They applauded Capoul and gave the young 
debutante Heilhronn a great welcome. 

The opera ended in sympathetic applause, 
whereupon the stage manager came out to an- 
nounce the names of the authors. Just then a 
cat walked across the stage. This was the cause 
of fresh hilarity which was so great that the au- 
thors' names went unheard. 

It was a day of mishaps. Two accidents on 
the same evening gave grounds for fear that the 
piece would fail. There was nothing in it, how- 
ever, and the press showed itself really indulgent. 
It sheathed its claws in velvet in its appreciation. 

Theophile Gautier, a great poet and an emi- 
nent critic, was kind enough to fling a few of his 
sparkling bits at the work, proof of his obvious 
good feeling. 

La Grand'Tante was played with La Voyage en 
Chine, a great financial success, and I lived four- 
teen evenings. I was in raptures. I no longer 
consider only fourteen performances; they 
scarcely count. 

The orchestral score (it was not engraved) 
was lost in the fire at the Opera- Comique in 1887. 
It was no great loss to music, but I should be 



happy to have the evidence of the first steps in 
my career. 

At this time I was giving lessons in a family 
at Versailles, with which I am still in touch. 
I was caught in a heavy shower on my way there 
one day. That rain was good to me, verifying 
the adage, "Every cloud has a silver lining." I 
waited patiently in the station for the rain to 
stop, when I saw near me Pasdeloup who was 
also waiting until the shower was over. 

He had never spoken to me. The wait at the 
station and the bad weather were an easy and 
natural excuse for the conversation we had to- 
gether. On his asking me whether in my work 
at Rome I had not written something for the or- 
chestra, I replied that I had a Suite d'Orchestra 
in five parts (the one I had written in Venice in 
1865) ; he begged me point blank to send it to 
him. I sent it the same week. 

I take extreme pleasure in paying homage 
to Pasdeloup. He not only aided me gener- 
ously on this occasion, but he was also the cre- 
ative genius of the first popular concerts which 
aided so powerfully in making music understood 
outside the theater. 

In the Rue des Martyrs one rainy day (Always 

One of the last portraits of Massenet 


rain ! Truly Paris is not Italy ! ) I met one of my 
confreres, a violoncellist in Pasdeloup's orches- 
tra. While we were chatting, he said, "This 
morning we read a very remarkable Suite d'Or- 
chestra. We wanted to know the author's name, 
but it wasn't on the orchestral parts." 

I jumped up at once. I was greatly excited. 
Was it my work or that of some one else? 

"In this Suite," I asked him with a start, "is 
there a fugue, a march, and a nocturne?" 

"Exactly," he replied. 

"Then," I said, "it is mine." 

I rushed to the Rue Lafitte and flew up the 
stairs like a madman to tell my wife and her 

Pasdeloup had given me no warning. 

On the program for the next day but one, Sun- 
day, I saw my first orchestral suite announced. 

How was I to hear what I had written? 

I paid for a place in the third balcony and 
listened, lost in that dense crowd, as it was every 
Sunday, in that gallery where they even had to 
stand. Each passage was well received. The 
last had just ended when a young fellow near me 
hissed twice. Both times, however, the audi- 
ence protested and applauded all the more heart- 



ily. So the kill-joy did not gain the effect he 

I went back home all of a tremble. My fam- 
ily had also gone to the Cirque Napoleon and 
came to find me at once. If my people were 
happy at my success, they were still more 
pleased to have heard my work. 

One would have thought no more about that 
misguided hisser, except that the next day Al- 
bert Wolf devoted a long article on the front 
page of the Figaro, as unkind as it could be, to 
breaking my back. His brilliant, cutting wit 
was amusing reading for his public. My friend, 
Theodore Dubois, as young as I was in his career, 
had the fine courage to reply to Wolf at the risk 
of losing his position. He wrote a letter worthy 
in every way of his great, noble heart. 

Reyer for his part consoled me for the Figaro 
article by this curious, piquant bon-mot: "Let 
him talk. Wits, like imbeciles, can be mis- 

I owe it to the truth to say that Albert Wolf 
regretted what he had written without attaching 
any importance to it except to please his readers, 
and never thinking that at the same time he might 



kill the future of a young musician. Afterwards 
he became one of my warmest friends. 

Emperor Napoleon III opened three competi- 
tions, and I did not wait a single day to enter 

I competed for the cantata Promethee, the 
opera-comique Le Florentin, and the opera La 
Coupe du Roi de Thule. 

I got nothing. 

Saint-Saens won the prize with his Promethee; 
Charles Lenepveu was crowned for his Le Floren- 
tin I was third and Diaz got first place with 
La Coupe du Roi de Thule. It was given at the 
Opera under marvellous conditions of interpre- 

Saint-Saens knew that I had competed and 
that the award had wavered between me and Diaz 
who had won. Shortly after this he met me and 

"There are so many good and beautiful things 
in your score that I have just written to Weimar 
to see if your work can't be performed there." 

Only great men act like that! 

Events, however, decreed otherwise, and the 
thousand pages of orchestration were for thirty 



years a well from which I drew many a passage 
for my subsequent works. 

I was beaten, but not broken. 
Ambroise Thomas, the constant, ever kind gen- 
ius of my life, introduced me to Michel Carre, one 
of the collaborators on Mignon and Hamlet. 
The billboards constantly proclaimed his suc- 
cesses and he entrusted me with a libretto in three 
acts which was splendidly done, entitled Meduse. 

I worked on this during the summer and win- 
ter of 1869 and during the spring of 1870. On 
the twelfth of July of that year the work had been 
done for several days, and Michel Carre made an 
appointment to meet me at the Opera. He in- 
tended to tell the director, Emile Perrin, that he 
must put the work on and that it would pay him 
to do so. 

Emile Perrin was not there. 

I left Michel Carre, who embraced me heart- 
ily and said, "Au revoir. On the stage of the 

I went to Fontainebleau where I was living, 
that same evening. 

I was going to be happy. . . . 

But the future was too lovely ! 

The next morning the papers announced the 


declaration of war between France and Germany 
and I never saw Michel Carre again. He died 
some months after this touching meeting which 
seemed so decisive to me. 

Good-by to my fine plans for Weimar, my 
hopes at the Opera, and my own hopes too. 
War, with all its alarms and horrors, had come to 
drench the soil of France with blood. 

I went. 

I will not take up my recollections again until 
after that utterly terrible year. I do not want to 
make such cruel hours live again ; I want to spare 
my readers their mournful tale. 




The Commune had just gasped its last breath 
when we found ourselves again at the family 
abode in Fontainebleau. 

Paris breathed once more after a long period 
of trouble and agony; gradually calm returned. 
As if the lesson of that bloody time would never 
fade away and as if its memory would be perpet- 
ual, bits of burnt paper were brought into our 
garden from time to time on the wings of the 
wind. I kept one piece. It bore traces of fig- 
ures and probably came from the burning of the 
Ministry of Finance. 

As soon as I saw again my dear little room in 
the country, I found courage to work and in the 
peace of the great trees which spread over us 
with their sweetly peaceful branches I wrote the 
Scenes Pittoresques. 

I dedicated them to my good friend Paladilhe, 
author of Patrie, later my confrere at the Insti- 

As I had undergone all kinds of privation for 


so many months, the life I was now living seemed 
to me most exquisite; it brought back my good 
humor and gave me a calm and serene mind. 

On this account I was able to write my second 
orchestral suite which was played some years 
later at the Chatelet concerts. 

But I went back to Paris before long, for I 
wanted to see, as soon as possible, the great city 
which had been so sorely tried. I had hardly 
got back when I met Emile Bergerat, the bright 
and delightful poet, who later became Theophile 
Gautier's son-in-law. 

How dear a name in French letters is that of 
Theophile Gautier! What glory he heaped on 
them that illustrious Benvenuto of style as they 
called him! 

Bergerat took me with him one day to visit his 
future father-in-law. 

My sensations in approaching that great poet 
were indescribable! He was no longer in the 
dawn of life, but he was still youthful and viva- 
cious in thought, and rich in images with which 
he adorned his slightest conversation. And his 
learning was extremely wide and varied. I 
found him sitting in a large armchair with three 
cats about him. I have always been fond of 



the pretty creatures, so I at once made friends 
with them which put me in the good graces of 
their master. 

Bergerat, who has continued to be a charming 
friend to me, told him that I was a musician and 
that a ballet over his name would open the doors 
of the Opera to me. He developed on the spot 
two subjects for me: Le Preneur de Rats (The 
Rat Catcher) and La Fille du Roi des Aulnes. 
The recollection of Schubert frightened me off 
the latter, and it was arranged that the Rat 
Catcher should be offered to the director of the 

Nothing came of it as far as I was concerned. 
The name of the great poet was so dazzling that 
the poor musician was completely lost in its bril- 
liance. It was said, however, that I would not 
remain a nonentity, but that I would finally 
emerge from obscurity. 

Duquesnel, an admirable friend, then the di- 
rector of the Odeon, at the instance of Hartmann, 
my publisher, sent for me to come to his office 
at the theater and asked me to write the stage 
music for the old tragedy Les Erinnyes by Le- 
conte de Lisle. He read several scenes to me 
and I became enthusiastic at once. 



How splendid the rehearsals were! They 
were under the direction of the celebrated artist 
Brindeau, the stage manager at the Odeon, but 
Leconte de Lisle managed them in person. 

What an Olympian attitude was that of the fa- 
mous translator of Homer, Sophocles, and The- 
ocritus, those geniuses of the past whom he al- 
most seemed to equal! How admirable the ex- 
pression of his face with his double eye-glass 
which seemed a part of him and through which 
his eyes gleamed with lightning glances ! 

How could they pretend that he did not like 
music when they inflicted so much of it on him, 
in that work at any rate? It was ridiculous. 
That is the sort of legend with which they over- 
whelm so many poets. 

Theophile Gautier, who, they said, considered 
music the most costly of all noises, knew and 
liked other marvellous artists too well to dis- 
parage our art. Besides, who can forget his crit- 
ical articles on music which his daughter Judith 
Gautier, of the Goncourt Academy, has just col- 
lected in one volume with pious care, and which 
are uncommonly and astonishingly just appreci- 

Leconte de Lisle was a fervent admirer of 


Wagner and of Alphonse Daudet, of whom I 
shall speak later, and had a soul most sensitive to 

In spite of the snow I went to the country in 
December to shut myself up for a few days with 
my wife's good parents and I wrote the music of 
Les Erinnyes. 

Dusquesnel placed forty musicians at my dis- 
posal, which, under the circumstances, was a con- 
siderable expense and a great favor. Instead of 
writing a score for the regular orchestra which 
would have produced only a paltry effect I had 
the idea of having a quartet of thirty-six stringed 
instruments corresponding to a large orchestra. 
Then I added three trombones to represent the 
three Erinnyes: Tisiphone, Alecto and Megere, 
and a pair of kettledrums. So I had my forty. 

I again thank that dear director for this un- 
usual luxury of instruments. I owed the sym- 
pathy of many musicians to it and to him. 

As I was already occupied with an opera-com- 
ique in three acts which a young collaborator 
of Ennery's had obtained for me from the man- 
ager of the theater how my memory flies to 
Chantepie, vanished from the stage too early 
I received a letter from du Locle, then director 



of the Opera-Comique, telling me that this work, 
Don Cesar de Bazan, must be ready in Novem- 

The cast was : Mile. Priola, Mme. Galli Marie, 
already famous as Mignon, later the never to be 
forgotten Carmen, and a young beginner with a 
well trained voice and charming presence, M. 

The work was put on hastily with old scenery, 
which so displeased Ennery that he never ap- 
peared in the theater again. 

Madame Galli took the honors of the evening 
with several encores. The Entr'acte Sevillana 
was also applauded. The work, however, did 
not succeed for it was taken off the bill after the 
thirteenth performance. Joncieres, the author 
of Dimitri, pled my cause in vain before the So- 
ciete des Auteurs, of which Auguste Maquet was 
president, arguing that they had no right to 
withdraw a work which still averaged so good 
receipts. They were kind words lost! Don 
Cesar was played no more. 

I recall that later on I had to re-write the whole 
work at the request of several provincial houses 
so that it might be played as they wished. The 
manuscript of the score (only the entr'acte was 



engraved) was burnea in the fire of May, 1887, 
as was my first work. 

An invincible secret power directed my life. 

I was invited to dine at the house of Mme. 
Pauline Viardot, the sublime lyric tragedienne. 
In the course of the evening I was asked to play a 
little music. 

I was taken unawares and I began to sing a bit 
from my sacred drama Marie Magdeleine. 

Although I had no voice, at that age I had a 
good deal of go in the manner of singing my 
music. Now, I speak it, and in spite of the in- 
sufficiency of my vocal powers, my artists get 
what I mean. 

I was singing, if I may say so, when Mme. 
Pauline Viardot leaned over the keyboard and 
said with an accent of emotion never to be for- 

"What is that?" 

"Marie Magdeleine" I told her, "a work of 
my youth which I never even hope to put on." 

"What? Well, it shall be and I will be your 
Mary Magdalene." 

I at once sang again the scene of Magdalene at 
the Cross: 

Obien-aime! Sous ta sombre couronne. . . . 


When Hartmann heard of this, he wanted to 
play a trick on Pasdeloup, who had heard the 
score not long before and who had refused it al- 
most brutally, so he created, in collaboration with 
Duquesnel at the Odeon, the Concert National. 
The leader of the orchestra at this new popular 
concert was Edouard Colonne, my old friend at 
the Conservatoire, whom I had already chosen to 
conduct Les Erinnyes. 

Hartmann's publishing house was the ren- 
dezvous for all the youngsters, including Cesar 
Franck whose lofty works had not yet come into 
their own. 

The small shop at 17 Boulevard de la Made- 
leine became the center of the musical movement. 
Bizet, Saint-Saens, Lalo, Franck, and Holmes 
were a part of the inner circle. Here they 
chatted gaily and with every enthusiasm and ar- 
dor in their faith in the great art which was to 
ennoble their lives. 

The first five concerts at the Concert National 
were devoted to Cesar Franck and to other com- 
posers. The sixth and last was given to the full 
performance of Marie Magdeleine. 




The first reading of Marie Magdeleine to the 
cast took place at nine o'clock one morning in 
the small hall of the Maison Erard, Rue de Mail, 
which had been used heretofore for quartet con- 
certs. Early as the hour was Mme. Viardot was 
even earlier, so eager was she to hear the first 
notes of my work. The other interpreters ar- 
rived a few moments later. 

Edouard Colonne conducted the orchestra re- 

Mme. Viardot took a lively interest in the 
reading. She followed it like an artist well ac- 
quainted with the composition. She was a mar- 
vellous singer and lyric tragedienne and more 
than an artist ; she was a great musician, a woman 
marvellously endowed and altogether unusual. 

On the eleventh of April the Odeon received 
the public which always attends dress rehearsals 
and first nights. The theater opened its doors to 
All Paris, always the same hundred persons who 



think it the most desirable privilege in tne world 
to be present at a rehearsal or a first night. 

The press was represented as usual. 

I took refuge with my interpreters in the wings. 
They were all there and they were highly ex- 
cited. In their emotion it seemed as if they were 
to pass a final sentence on me, that they were 
about to give a verdict on which my life de- 

I can give no account of the impression of the 
audience. I had to leave the next day with my 
wife for Italy, so I had no immediate news. 

The first echo of Marie Magdeleine reached me 
at Naples in the form of a touching letter from 
the ever kindly Ambroise Thomas. 

This is what the master, always so delicately 
attentive to everything which marked the steps of 
my musical career, wrote: 

PARIS, April 12, 1873 

As I am obliged to go to my country place to- 
day, I shall, perhaps, not have the pleasure of 
seeing you before your departure. In the un- 
certainty I cannot postpone telling you, my dear 
friend, how pleased I was last evening and how 
happy I was at your fine success. 

It is at once a serious, noble work, full of feel- 


ing. It is of OUT times, but you have proved that 
one can walk the path of progress and still remain 
clear, sober, and restrained. 

You have known how to move, because you 
have been moved yourself. 

I was carried away like everyone else, indeed 
more than anyone else. 

You have expressed happily the lovely poetry 
of that sublime drama. 

In a mystical subject where one is tempted to 
fall into an abuse of somber tones and severity of 
style, you have shown yourself a colorist while 
retaining charm and clearness. 

Be content ; your work will be heard again and 
will endure. 

Au revoir; with all my heart I congratulate 

My affectionate congratulations to Madame 


I read and re-read this dear letter. I could 
not get it out of my thoughts so agreeable and 
precious was the comfort it brought me. 

I was lost in such delightful revery when, as 
we were taking the steamer for Capri, I saw a 
breathless hotel servant running towards me with 
a package of letters in his hands. They were 
from my friends in Paris who were delighted with 


Mme. Pauline Viardot 


my success and who were determined to express 
their joy to me. A copy of the Journal des De- 
bats was enclosed. It came from Ernest Reyer 
and contained over his signature an article which 
was most eulogistic of my work, one of the most 
moving I have ever received. 

I had now returned to see this charming and 
intoxicating country. I visited Naples and Ca- 
pri, then Sorrento, all picturesque places capti- 
vatingly beautiful, perfumed with the scent of 
orange trees, and all this on the morrow of a 
never to be forgotten evening. I lived in the 
most unutterable raptures. 

A week later we were in Rome. 

We had scarcely reached the Hotel de la Min- 
erve when there arrived a gracious invitation to 
lunch from the director of the Academic de 
France, a member of the Institute, the illustrious 
painter Ernest Hebert. 

Several students were invited to this occasion. 
We breathed the warm air of that wholly lovely 
day through the open windows of the director's 
salon where De Troy's magnificent tapestries rep- 
resenting the story of Esther were hung. 

After lunch Hebert asked me to let him hear 
some of the passages from Marie Magdeleine* 



Flattering accounts of it had come to him from 

The next day the Villa's students invited me 
in their turn. It was with the keenest emotion 
that I found myself once more in that dining 
room with its arched ceiling, where my portrait 
was hung beside those of the other Grand Prixs. 
After lunch I saw in a studio opening into the 
garden the "Gloria Victis," the splendid master- 
piece which was destined to make the name of 
Mercie immortal. 

I must confess in speaking of Marie Magde- 
leine that I had a presentiment that the work 
would in the end gain honors on the stage. 
However I had to wait twenty years before I had 
that pleasant satisfaction. It verified the opin- 
ion I had formed of that sacred drama. 

M. Saugey, the able director of the Opera at 
Nice, was the first to have the audacity to try it 
and he could not but congratulate himself. On 
my part I tender him my sincere thanks. 

Our first Marie Magdeleine on the stage was 
Lina Pacary. That born artist, in voice, beauty 
and talent was fitted for the creation of this part, 
and when the same theater later put on Ariane, 



Lina Pacary was again selected as the interpreter. 
Her uninterrupted success made her theatrical 
life really admirable. 

The year following my dear friend and director 
Albert Carre put the work on at the Opera-Com- 
ique. It was my good fortune to have as my in- 
terpreters Mme. Marguerite Carre, Mme. Ai'no 
Ackte, and Salignac. 

So I lived again in Rome in the most pleasant 
thoughts of Marie Magdeleine. Naturally it was 
the topic of conversation on the ideal walks I 
took with Hebert in the Roman Campagna. 

Hebert was not only a great painter but also a 
distinguished poet and musician. In the latter 
capacity he played in a quartet which was often 
heard at the Academic. 

Ingres, also a director of the Academic, played 
the violin. Delacroix was asked one day what 
he thought of Ingres's violin playing. 

"He plays like Raphael," was the amusing an- 
swer of this brilliant colorist. 

So delightful was our stay in Rome that it was 
with regret that we left that city so dear to our 
memories and went back to Paris. 

I had hardly got back to No. 46 Rue du Gen- 


eral Foy where I lived for thirty years than I 
became absorbed in a libretto by Jules Adenis 
Les Templiers. 

I had hardly written two acts when I began to 
worry about it. The piece was extremely inter- 
esting, but its historical situations took me along 
the road already travelled by Meyerbeer. 

Hartmann agreed with me; indeed my pub- 
lisher was so outspoken about it that I tore into 
bits the two hundred pages which I had sub- 
mitted to him. 

In deep trouble, hardly knowing where I was 
going, I happened to think of calling on Louis 
Gallet, my collaborator in Marie Magdeleine. I 
came from this interview with him with the plan 
of Le Roi de Lahore. From the funeral pyre of 
the last Grand Master of the Templars, Jean 
Jacques de Molay, whom I had given up, I found 
myself in the Paradise of India. It was the 
seventh heaven of bliss for me. 

Charles Lamoureux, the famous orchestra 
leader, had just founded the Concerts de THar- 
monie Sacree in the Cirque des Champs filysees, 
which to-day has disappeared. (What a wicked 
delight they take in turning a superb theater into 



a branch of the Bank or an excellent concert 
hall into a grass plot of the Champs filysees!) 

As everyone knows Handel's oratorios made 
these concerts famous and successful. 

One snowy morning in January Hartmann in- 
troduced me to Lamoureux who lived in a garden 
in the Cite Frochot. I took with me the manu- 
script of Eve, a mystical play in three acts. 

The hearing took place before lunch. And by 
the time we had reached the coffee we were in 
complete accord. The work was to go to re- 
hearsal with the following famous interpreters: 
Mme. Brunet Lafleur and Mm. Lasalle and 

Les Concerts de I'Harmonie Sacre had Eve on 
the program of the eighteenth of March, 1875, 
as had been arranged. 

In spite of the superb general rehearsal in the 
entirely empty hall that was the reason I was 
there, for I had already begun to avoid the excite- 
ments of public performances I waited in a 
small cafe nearby for the news brought by an old 
comrade, Taffanel, then the first flute player at 
the Opera and at the Concerts de l'Harmonie Sa- 
cree. Ah, my dear Taffanel, my departed 



friend, whom I loved so well, how dear to me 
were your affection and your talent when you con- 
ducted my works at the Opera ! 

After each part Taffanel ran across the street 
and told me the comforting news. After the 
third part he was still encouraging, and he told 
me hastily that it was all over, that the audience 
had gone, and hegged me to come at once and 
thank Lamoureux. 

I believed him, but what a fraud he was ! No 
sooner was I in the musicians' foyer than I was 
blown like a feather into my confreres arms, 
which I grabbed as hard as I could, for I now un- 
derstood the trick. But they put me down on 
the stage before the audience which was still 
there and still applauding and waving their hats 
and handkerchiefs. 

I got up, bounced like a ball, and disappeared 
furious ! 

I have drawn this doubtless exaggerated pic- 
ture of my success because the moments which 
followed were terrible for me and showed in con- 
trast the vanity of the things of this world. 

A servant had been searching for me all the 
evening as she did not know my whereabouts in 



Paris and she found me at last at the door of the 
concert hall. With tears in her eyes she bade 
me come to my mother who was very ill. My 
dear mother was living in the Rue Notre-Dame- 
de-Lorette. I had sent her seats for herself and 
my sister and I felt sure that both of them had 
Leen at the concert. 

The servant and I jumped into a cab, and when 
I reached the landing, my sister, with out- 
stretched arms and sobbing, cried, "Mamma is 
dead ... at ten o'clock this evening." 

Words cannot express my deep grief at this 
announcement of the terrible misfortune which 
had come upon me. It darkened my days just at 
the time when it seemed as if a kind heaven 
wished to drive away the clouds. 

In accordance with my mother's last wishes, 
she was embalmed the next day. My sister and 
I, both prostrated by grief, were there, when we 
were surprised by the sudden appearance of Hart- 
mann. I dragged him swiftly away from the 
painful sight, and he hurried out, but not before 
he had said, 

"You are down for the cross!" 

Poor mother ! how proud she would have been ! 


March, 21, 1875 
Dear Friend: 

If I had not lost your card and, consequently, 
your address, for which I searched for a quarter 
of an hour in the Testaccio of my papers, I would 
have told you yesterday of my keen joy and deep 
emotion at hearing your Eve and at its success. 
The triumph of one of the Elect should be a festi- 
val for the Church. And you are one of the 
Elect, my dear friend; Heaven has marked you 
with a sign as one of its children; I feel it in 
everything which your beautiful work has stirred 
in my heart. But prepare for the martyr's role 
for the part which must be played by all who 
come from on high and offend what comes from 
below. Remember that when the Lord said, 
"He is one of the Elect," he added, "And I will 
show him how greatly he must suffer in my 

Wherefore, my dear friend, spread forth your 
wings boldly, and trust yourself fearlessly to the 
lofty regions where the lead of earth cannot hit 
the bird of heaven. 

Yours with all my heart, 





Death, which by taking away my mother had 
stricken me in my dearest affections, had also 
taken her mother from my dear wife. So we 
lived the next summer at Fontainebleau in a sor- 
rowful house of mourning. 

Remembrance of the dear departed still hung 
over us, when I learned on the fifth of June of 
the death of Bizet. The news came like a thun- 
der clap. Bizet had been a sincere and affection- 
ate comrade, and I had a respectful admiration 
for him although we were about the same age. 

His life was very hard. He felt the spirit 
within him, and he believed that his future glory 
would outlive him. Carmen., famous for forty 
years, appeared to those called upon to judge a 
work which contained good things, although it 
was somewhat incomplete, and also what did 
they not say at the time? a dangerous and im- 
moral subject. 



What a lesson on too hasty judgments! . . . 

On returning to Fontainebleau after the 
gloomy funeral I tried to take up my life again, 
and work on Le Roi de Lahore on which I had 
already been busy for several months. 

The summer that year was particularly hot and 
enervating. I was so depressed that one day 
when a tremendous storm broke I felt almost an- 
nihilated and let myself fall asleep. 

But if my body was lulled to sleep, my mind 
remained active ; it seemed never to stop working. 
Indeed my ideas seemed to profit from this invol- 
untary rest imposed by Nature to put themselves 
in order. I heard as in a dream my third act, the 
Paradise of India, played on the stage of the 
Opera. The intangible performance had, as it 
were, filled my mind. The same phenomenon 
happened to me on several subsequent occasions. 

I never would have dared to hope it. That 
day and those which followed I began to write 
the rough draft of the instrumental music for 
that scene in Paradise. 

Between times I continued to give numerous 
lessons in Paris, which I found equally oppressive 
and enervating. 

I had long since formed the habit of getting 


up early. My work absorbed me from four 
o'clock in the morning until midday and lessons 
took up the six hours of the afternoon. Most 
of the evenings were given to my pupils' parents. 
We had music at their homes and we were made 
much of and entertained. I have been accus- 
tomed to working in the morning like this all my 
life, and I still continue the practice. 

After spending the winter and spring in Paris 
we returned to our calm and peaceful family 
home in Fontainebleau. At the beginning of 
the summer of 1876 I finished the whole of the 
orchestral score for Le Roi de Lahore on which I 
had now spent several years. 

Finishing a work is to bid good-by to the in- 
describable pleasure which the labor gives one ! 

I had on my desk eleven hundred pages of 
orchestral score and my arrangement for the 
piano, which I had just finished. 

What would become of this work was the ques- 
tion I asked myself anxiously. Would it ever 
be played? As a matter of fact it was written 
for a large stage that was the danger, the dark 
spot in the future. 

During the preceding winter I had become ac- 
quainted with that soulful poet Charles Grand- 



mougin. The delightful singer of the Prome- 
nades and the impassioned bard of the French 
Patrie had written a sacred legend in four parts, 
La Vierge, which he intended for me. 

I have never been able to let my mind He idle, 
and I at once started in on Grandmougin's beau- 
tiful verses. Why then should bitter discour- 
agement arise? I will tell you later. As a mat- 
ter of fact I could stand it no longer. I must see 
Paris again. It seemed to me that I would come 
back relieved of my weak heartedness which I 
had undergone without noticing it much. 

I went to Paris on the twenty-sixth of July in- 
tending to bother Hartmann with my troubles by 
confessing them to him. 

But I did not find him in. I strolled to the 
Conservatoire to pass the time. A competition 
on the violin was in progress. When I got there, 
they were taking a ten minute rest, and I took 
advantage of it to pay my respects to my master 
Ambroise Thomas in the large room just off the 

As that place, then so delightfully alive, is 
to-day a desert which has been abandoned for 
other quarters, I will describe what the place was 
in which I grew up and lived for so many years. 



The room of which I have spoken was reached 
by a great staircase entered through a vestibule of 
columns. As one reached the landing he saw 
two large pictures done by some painter or other 
of the First Empire. The door opposite opened 
on a room ornamented by a large mantelpiece and 
lighted by a glass ceiling in the style of the an- 
cient temples. 

The furniture was in the style of Napoleon I. 

A door opened into the office of the director 
of the Conservatoire, a room large enough to hold 
ten or a dozen people seated about the green 
cloth table or seated or standing at separate ta- 
bles. The decoration of the great hall of the 
Conservatoire was in the Pompeiian style in har- 
mony with the room I have described. 

Ambroise Thomas was leaning on the mantel- 
piece. When he saw me, he smiled joyfully, 
held out his arms into which I flung myself, and 
said with an appearance of resignation, delightful 
at the time, "Accept it; it is the first rung." 

"What shall I accept?" I asked. 

"What, you don't know? They gave you the 
cross yesterday?" 

fimile Rety, the valued general secretary of 
the Conservatoire, took the ribbon from his but- 



tonhole and put it in mine, but not without some 
difficulty. He had to open it with an ink eraser 
which he found on the jury's table near the presi- 
dent's desk. 

That phrase "the first rung," was delightful 
and profoundly encouraging. 

Now, I had only one urgent errand to see 
my publisher. 

I must confess to a feeling which enters into 
my tastes to such an extent as to be indicative of 
my character. I was still so youthful that I felt 
uneasy about the ribbon which seemed to blaze 
and draw all eyes. 

My face was still moist from those lavish em- 
braces and I was planning to go home to the coun- 
try when I was stopped on the corner of the Rue 
de la Paix by M. Halanzier, the director of the 
Opera. I was surprised the more, for I believed 
that I was only moderately thought of at the 
Great House as a result of the refusal of my bal- 
let, Le Preneur de Rats. 

But M. Halanzier had a frank and open mind. 

"What are you doing?" he asked. "I hear 
nothing of you." 

I may add that he had never spoken to me be- 



"How could I dare to speak of my work to the 
director of the Opera?" I replied, thoroughly 

"And if I want you to?" 

"Well, I have a simple work in five acts, Le Roi 
de Lahore, with Louis Gallet." 

"Come to my house, 18 Place Vendome, to- 
morrow and bring your manuscript." 

I rushed to tell Gallet, and then went home to 
Fontainebleau, carrying my wife the two bits of 
news, one obvious in my buttonhole, and the 
other the greatest hope I had ever had. 

I was at the Place Vendome the next morning 
at nine o'clock. Gallet was there already. 

Halanzier lived in a beautiful apartment on the 
third floor of the superb mansion which formed 
one of the corners of the Place Vendome. 

I began the reading at once. Halanzier 
stopped me so little that I went right through the 
whole of the five acts. My voice was gone . . . 
and my hands were useless from fatigue. 

As I put my manuscript back into my old 
leather portfolio and Gallet and I prepared to go: 

"Well ! So you leave me no copy?" 

I looked at Gallet in stupefaction. 

"Then you intend to perform the work?" 


"The future will tell." 

I was scarcely reinstalled in our apartment in 
the Rue du General Foy on my return to Paris in 
October, than the morning's mail brought me the 
following bulletin from the Opera: 

Le Roi 

2 heures Foyer 

The parts had been given to Mile. Josephine 
de Reszke her two brothers Jean and Edouard 
;were to ornament the stage later on Salomon 
and Lassalle, the last creating a role for the first 

There was no public dress rehearsal. It was 
not the custom then as it is nowadays to have a re- 
hearsal for the "couturieres," then for the "col- 
onelle" and, finally, the "general" rehearsal. 

In spite of the obviously sympathetic demon- 
strations of the orchestra and all the personnel at 
the rehearsal, Halanzier announced that as they 
were putting on the first work of a debutant at 
the Opera, he wanted to look after everything 
himself until after the first performance. 

I want to record again my deep gratitude to 
that singularly good director who loved youth 
and protected it. 



The staging, scenery and costumes were of un- 
heard-of splendor; the interpretation of the first 
order. . . . 

The first performance of Le Roi de Lahore, the 
twenty-seventh of April, 1877, was a glorious 
event in my life. ^ 

Apropos of this I recall that on that morning 
Gustave Flaubert left his card with the servant, 
without even asking for me. On it were these 
words : 

"This morning I pity you; to-night I shall envy 

These lines show so well the admirable under- 
standing of the writer of Salammbo and that im- 
mortal masterpiece Madame Bovary. 

The next morning I received the following 
lines from the famous architect and great artist 
Charles Gamier: 

"I do not know whether it is the hall which 
makes good music ; but, sapristi, what I do know 
is that I lost none of your work and found it ad- 
mirable. That's the truth. 



The magnificent Opera had been opened six- 
teen months previously, January 5, 1875, and 



the critics had considered it their duty to attack 
the acoustics of that marvellous house built by 
the most exceptionally competent man of modern 
times. It is true that the criticism did not last, 
for when one speaks of Garnier's magnificent 
work it is in words which are eloquent in their 
simplicity, "What a fine theater !" The hall ob- 
viously has not changed, but the public which 
pays to Gamier his just and rightful homage. 



The performances of Le Roi de Lahore were 
running on at the Opera and they were well at- 
tended and finely done. At least that is what I 
heard for I had already stopped going. Pres- 
ently I left Paris where, as I have said, I devoted 
myself to giving lessons, and went back to the 
country to work on La Vierge. 

In the meantime I had learned that the great 
Italian publisher Guilio Ricordi had heard Le Roi 
de Lahore at the Opera and had come to terms 
with Hartmann for its production in Italy. Such 
a thing was really unique, for at that time the only 
works translated into Italian and given in that 
country were those of the great masters. And 
they had to wait a long time for their turn, while 
it was my good fortune to see Le Roi de Lahore 
played on the morrow of its first performance. 

The first house in Italy at which this honor fell 
to me was the Regio in Turin. What an unex- 
pected good fortune it was to see Italy again, to 



know their theaters from more than the outside, 
and to go into their wings ! I found in all this a 
delight which I cannot express and in this state 
of rapture I passed the first months of 1878. 
Hartmann and I went to Italy on the first of Feb- 
ruary, 1878. 

With the Scala at Milan, the San Carlo at Na- 
ples, the Communal Opera at Boulogne, the old 
Apollo at Rome since demolished and replaced 
in popular favor by the Costanzi with the Per- 
gola at Florence, the Carlo Felice at Genoa, and 
the Fenice at Venice, the beautiful Regio Thea- 
ter, built opposite the Madame Palace on the 
Piazza Castella, is one of the most noted in all 
Italy. It rivaled then as it does now the 
most famous houses of that classic land of the 
arts to which it was always so hospitable and so 

The manners at the Regio were entirely differ- 
ent from those at Paris and were, as I discovered 
later, much like those in Germany. Absolute 
deference and punctilious exactness are the rule, 
not only among the artistes but also among the 
singers of the minor roles. The orchestra obeys 
the slightest wish of the director. 

The orchestra at the Regio at that time was 


conducted by the master Pedrotti who was subse- 
quently the director of the Rossini Conservatory 
at Pesaro. He was known for his gay, viva- 
cious melodies and a number of operas, among 
them Tutti in maschera. His death was tragic. 
I can still hear honest Pedrotti saying repeatedly 
to me: 

"Are you satisfied ? I am so much." 

We had a famous tenor of the time, Signer 
Fanselli. He had a superb voice, but a manner- 
ism of spreading his arms wide open in front of 
him with his fingers opened out. In spite of the 
fact that an excessive fondness for this method 
of giving expression is almost inevitably displeas- 
ing, many other artists I have known use it to ex- 
press their feelings, at least they think they do, 
when, as a matter of fact, they feel absolutely 

His open hands had won for this remarkable 
tenor the nickname, Cinque e cinque fanno died! 
(Five and five make ten ! ) 

Apropos of this first performance I will men- 
tion the baritone Mendioroz and Signorina Me- 
cocci who took part in it. 

Such goings about became very frequent, for 
scarcely had Hartmann and I got back to Paris 



than we had to start off again for Rome where // 
Re di Lahore had the honor of a first performance 
on March 21, 1879. 

Here I had still more remarkable artists: the 
tenor Barbaccini, the baritone Kashmann, both 
singers of great merit; then Signorina Mariani, 
an admirable singer and tragedienne, and her 
younger sister who was equally charming. M. 
Giacovacci, the director at the Apollo, was a 
strange old fellow, very amusing and gay, es- 
pecially when he recalled the first performance 
of The Barber of Seville at the Argentine Theater 
in the days of his youth. He drew a most inter- 
esting picture of the young Rossini and his vivac- 
ity and charm. To have written The Barber of 
Seville and William Tell is indeed a most striking 
evidence of wit personified and also of a keen 

I profited by my stay in Rome to revisit my 
dear Villa Medici. It amused me to reappear 
there as an author . . . how shall I say it? 
Well (and so much the worse) let us say, an en- 
thusiastically applauded author. 

I stopped at the Hotel de Rome, opposite the 
San Carlo, on the Corso. 

The morning after the first performance, they 


brought a note to my rooms I was hardly 
awake, for we had come in very late which bore 
these words: 

"The next time you stay at a hotel, let me 

know beforehand, for I haven't slept all night 

with all their serenading and toasting you! 

What a row! But I am pleased for your sake. 

"Your old friend, 

"Du LOCLE." 

Du Locle! How could it be he! But there 
he was my conductor at the birth of Don Cesar 
de Bazan. I hastened to embrace him. 

The morning of March 21 brought hours of 
magical delight and alluring charm. I count 
them as among the best that I remember. 

I had obtained an audience with the newly 
enthroned Pope Leo XIII. The grand salon 
where I was introduced was preceded by a long 
antechamber. Those who had been admitted 
like myself were kneeling in a row on each side of 
the room. The Pope blessed the faithful with 
his right hand and spoke a few words to them. 
His chamberlain told him who I was and why I 
had come to Rome, and the Sovereign Pontiff 
added to his benediction words of good wishes 
for my art. 



Leo XIII combined an unusual dignity with a 
simplicity which reminded me forcibly of Pius 

After leaving the Vatican I went at eleven 
o'clock to the Quirinal Palace. The Marchese 
di Villamarina was to present me to Queen 
Margherita. We passed through a suite of five 
or six rooms and in the one where we waited was 
a crape-covered glass case in which were sou- 
venirs of Victor Emanuel who had died only re- 
cently. There was an upright piano between 
the windows. The following detail was almost 
theatrical in its impression. I had noticed that 
an usher was stationed at the door of each of the 
salons through which I had come, and I heard a 
distant voice, evidently in the first room, an- 
nounce loudly, La Regina, then nearer, La Re- 
gina, then nearer still, La Regina, and again and 
louder, La Regina, and finally in the next salon, 
in ringing tones, La Regina. And the Queen ap- 
peared in the salon where we were. 

The Marchese di Villamarina presented me, 
bowed to the Queen, and went out. 

Her Majesty, in a charming voice, asked me 
to excuse her for not going to the opera the eve- 
ning before to hear // Capolavoro of the French 



master, and, pointing to the glass case, said, 
"We are in mourning." Then she added, "As I 
was deprived of the evening, will you not let me 
hear some of the motifs of the opera?" 

As there was no chair beside the piano, I began 
to play standing. Then I saw the Queen looking 
about for a chair and I sprang towards one, placed 
it in front of the piano and continued playing as 
she had asked so adorably. 

I was much moved when I left her Majesty and 
I was deeply gratified by her gracious reception. 
I passed through the numerous salons and found 
the Marchese di Villamarina whom I thanked 
heartily for his great courtesy. 

A quarter of an hour later I was in the Via 
delle Carozze, visiting Menotti Garibaldi to whom 
I had a letter of introduction from a friend in 

That was no ordinary morning. Indeed it 
was unusual in view of the personages I had the 
honor to see: His Holiness the Pope, her Majesty 
the Queen, and the son of Garibaldi. 

I was presented during the day to Prince Mas- 
simo of the oldest Roman nobility. When I 
asked, perhaps indiscreetly but with genuine 
curiosity nevertheless, whether he were de- 



scended from Emperor Maximus, he replied, 
simply and modestly, "I do not know certainly, 
but they have been sure of it in my family for 
eighteen hundred years." 

After the theater that evening (a superb suc- 
cess), I went to supper at the house of our am- 
bassador, the Duke de Montebello. At the re- 
quest of the duchess I began to play the same mo- 
tifs I had given in the morning before her Maj- 
esty the Queen. The duchess smoked, and I re- 
member that I smoked many cigarettes while I 
played. That gave me the opportunity, as the 
smoke rose to the ceiling, to contemplate the 
marvellous paintings of the immortal Carrache, 
the creator of the famous Farnese Gallery. 

Again, what never to be forgotten hours ! 

I returned to my hotel about three in the morn- 
ing where the serenade with which they enter- 
tained me kept my friend du Locle awake. 

Spring passed rapidly on account of my memo- 
ries of my brilliant winter in Italy. I set to 
work at Fontainebleau and finished La Vierge. 
Then my dear wife and I set out for Milan and 
the Villa d'Este. 

That was a year of enthusiasms, of pure, radi- 
ant joy, and its hours of unutterable good fortune 



left a mark on my career, which was never to be 

Giulio Ricordi had invited Mme. Massenet and 
me, together with our dear daughter, still quite 
a child, to spend the month of August at the Villa 
d'Este in that marvellously picturesque country 
about Lake Como. We found there Mme. Giu- 
ditta Ricordi, the wife of our amiable and gra- 
cious host, their daughter Ginette, a delightful 
playmate for my little girl; and their sons Tito 
and Manuel, small boys then but tall gentlemen 
since. We also met there a lovely young girl, 
a rose that had as yet scarcely blossomed, who 
during our stay worked at singing with a re- 
nowned Italian professor. 

Arrigo Boito, the famous author of Mefistole, 
who was also a guest at the Villa d'Este, was as 
impressed as I was with the unusual quality of 
her voice. That prodigious voice, already so 
wonderfully flexible, was that of the future artiste 
who was never to be forgotten in her creation of 
Lakme by the glorious and regretted Leo Delibes. 
I have named Marie Van Zandt. 

One evening as I entered the Hotel Bella Ven- 
ezia, on the Piazza San Fedele at Milan (where 
even to-day I should be glad to alight) Giulio 



Ricordi came to see me and introduced me to a 
man of great distinction, an inspired poet, who 
read me a scenario in four acts on the story of 
Herodias, which was tremendously interesting. 
That remarkable man of letters was Zanardini, a 
descendant of one of the greatest families of Ven- 

It is easy to see how suggestive and inspiring 
the story of the Tetrach of Galilee, of Salome, of 
John, and of Herodias would become under a pen 
so rich in colors as that of the man who had 
painted it. 

On the fifteenth of August during our stay in 
Italy, Le Roi de Lahore was put on at the Vienza 
Theater, and on the third of October came the 
first performance at the Communal Theater at 
Bologna. That was the reason for our prolonged 
stay in Italy. 

Our return to Fontainebleau followed imme- 
diately and I had to take up my normal life again 
and my unfinished work. 

To my surprise I received a visit from M. 
fcnile Rety the day after my return! He came 
from Ambroise Thomas to offer me the place of 
professor of counterpoint, fugue and composition 
at the Conservatoire to replace Frangois Bazin 



who had died some months before. He advised 
me at the same time to become a candidate for 
the Academic des Beaux Arts as the election of 
a successor to Bazin was at hand. 

What a contrast to the months of agreeable 
nonsense and applause in Italy! I thought that 
I was forgotten in France, whereas the truth was 
the direct opposite. 




I received the official notice of my nomination 
as professor at the Conservatoire and I went to 
Paris. I would have hardly imagined that I had 
said good-by to my beloved house at Fontaine- 
bleau with no hope of seeing it again. 

The life which had now begun for me trans- 
planted my summers of work in the midst of quiet 
and peaceful solitude those summers which I 
had passed so happily far from the noise and tu- 
mult of the city. If books have their destiny as 
the poet says (habent sua fata libelli) , does not 
each one of us follow a destiny which is just as 
certain and irrevocable? One cannot swim 
against the stream. It is easy to swim with it, 
especially if it carries one to a longed for shore. 

I gave my course at the Conservatoire twice a 
week, on Tuesdays and Fridays at half past one. 

I confess that I was both proud and happy 
to sit in that chair, in the same classroom where 
as a child I had received the advice and lessons 



of my master. I looked upon my pupils as other 
or as new children grandchildren rather who 
received the teaching which had come to me and 
which seemed to filter through the memories of 
the master who had imbued me with it. 

The young people with whom I had to do 
seemed nearly my own age, and I said to them 
by way of encouraging them and urging them on 
to work: "You have but one companion the 
more, who tries to be as good a pupil as you are 

It was touching to see the deferential affection 
which they showed me from the first day. I was 
completely happy when I surprised them some- 
times chatting and telling their impressions of 
the work given the day before or to be given to- 
morrow. At the beginning of my professorship 
that work was Le Roi de Lahore. 

Thus I continued for eigtheen years to be both 
friend and "patron," as they called me, of a con- 
siderable number of young composers. 

Since I took such joy in it, I may perhaps recall 
the successes they won each year in the contests 
in fugue, and how useful this teaching was to me, 
for it obliged me to be very clever, face to face 
with a task, in finding quickly what should be 



done in accordance with the rigorous precepts of 

How delighted I was for eighteen years when 
nearly annually the Grand Prix de Rome was 
awarded to a pupil in my class ! I longed to go 
to the Conservatoire and heap the honors on my 

I can still see, at evening in his peaceful salon 
with the windows overlooking the Conservatoire's 
courtyard deserted at that hour the good Ad- 
ministrator-General fenile Rety listening to me 
as I told him of my happiness in having assisted 
in the success of "my children." 

A few years ago I received a touching expres- 
sion of their feeling toward me. 

In the month of December, 1900, I saw come 
to my publishers, where they knew they could 
find me, Lucien Hillemacher, since dead, alas, 
accompanied by a group of old Grand Prix. He 
delivered to me on parchment the signatures of 
more than five hundred of my old pupils. The 
pages were bound into a thin octavo volume, 
bound luxuriously in Levant morocco, spangled 
with stars. On the fly-leaves in brilliant illumi- 
nation, along with my name, were the two dates : 



The signatures were preceded by the following 
lines : 

Dear Master: 

Happy at your nomination as Grand Officer of 
the Legion of Honor, your pupils unite in offer- 
ing you this evidence of their deep and affection- 
ate gratitude. 

The names of the Grand Prix of the Institute 
who showed me their gratitude in this way were: 
Hillemacher, Henri Rabaud, Max D'Ollone, Al- 
fred Bruneau, Gaston Carraud, G. Marty, Andre 
Floch, A. Savard, Croce-Spinelli, Lucien Lam- 
bert, Ernest Moret, Gustave Charpentier, Rey- 
naldo Hahn, Paul Vidal, Florent Schmitt, En- 
esco, Bemberg, Laparra, d'Harcourt, Malherbe, 
Guy Ropartz, Tiersot, Xavier Leroux, Dallier, 
Falkenberg, Ch. Silver, and so many other dear 
friends of the class ! 

Ambroise Thomas saw that I had no thought 
of standing for the Institute as he had done me 
the honor of advising me and was good enough 
to warn me that I still had two days left in which 
to send out the letter of candidature for the 
Academic des Beaux Arts. He advised me to 
make it short, adding that the mention of titles 



was necessary only when one was able to ignore 
them. This sensible remark rather wounded my 
modesty. . . . 

Election day was fixed for Saturday, November 
30. I knew that there were many candidates 
and that first and foremost among them was 
Saint-Saens, whose friend and great admirer I 
was and always have been. 

I yielded to Ambroise Thomas without the 
slightest expectation of being elected. 

I had spent the day as usual giving lessons in 
the various parts of Paris. That morning, how- 
ever, I had said to Hartmann, my publisher, that 
I should be at the house of a pupil, No. 11, Rue 
Blanche, that evening between five and six. 
And I said, laughing, that he would know where 
to find me to announce the result whatever it was. 
Whereupon Hartmann said grandiloquently, "If 
you are a member of the Institute this evening, I 
will ring twice and you will understand me." 

I was about to begin work at the piano, my 
mind all on my work, on the Promenades d'un 
Solitaire., by Stephen Heller (What a dear mu- 
sician, that Alfred de Musset of the piano, as 
they called him!) when two sharp rings of the 



bell sounded. My heart stopped. My pupil 
could not make out what was the matter. 

A servant dashed in and said, "There are two 
gentlemen who want to embrace your professor." 
Everything was explained. I went with those 
"Messieurs," even more startled than happy, and 
leaving my pupil probably better pleased than I 

When I reached home I found that I had been 
preceded by my new and famous colleagues. 
They had left their congratulations with my con- 
cierge signed Meissonier, Lefeul, Ballu, Cabanel. 
Meissonier had brought the report of the sitting 
signed by him, which showed the two votes, for 
I was elected on the second ballot. That was 
certainly an autograph the like of which I would 
not receive twice in my life ! 

A fortnight later, according to the custom, I 
was introduced in the Salle des Seances of the 
Academic des Beaux-Arts by Comte Delaborde, 
the permanent secretary. 

A new member had to wear a black coat and 
a white tie, and going to the reception in dress 
clothes at three o'clock in the afternoon, one 
would have thought I was on my way to a wed- 



I took my place in the chair which I still 
occupy. That takes me back more than thirty- 
three years ! 

A few days later I wanted to take advantage of 
my privileges by attending the reception of 
Renan. The ushers did not know me yet, and I 
was the Benjamin of the Academic. They would 
not believe me and refused to let me in. One of 
my colleagues, and not the least of them, Prince 
Napoleon, who was going in at the same time, 
told them who I was. 

While I was making the usual round of visits 
of thanks, I called on Ernest Reyer at his pic- 
turesque apartment in the Rue de la Tour d'Au- 
vergne. He opened the door himself and was 
much surprised to see me for he knew I must 
know that he had not been altogether favorable 
to me. "I know," I said, "that you did not vote 
for me. What touched me was that you did not 
vote against me!" This put Reyer in good hu- 
mor, for he said, "I am at lunch. Share my 
fried eggs with me!" I accepted and we talked 
a long time about art and its manifestations. 

For over thirty years Ernest Reyer was my 
best and firmest friend. 

As one might imagine, the Institute did not 


sensibly modify my position. Indeed it made it 
somewhat more difficult, as I wanted to get on 
with the score of Herodiade, and so stopped sev- 
eral lessons which were my most certain sources 
of revenue. 

Three weeks after my election a monster fes- 
tival took place at the Hippodrome. More than 
twenty thousand people took part. Gounod and 
Saint-Saens conducted their own works. I had 
the honor of directing the finale of the third act 
of Le Roi de Lahore. Everyone remembers the 
prodigious effect of that festival which was organ- 
ized by Albert Vizentini, one of the best compan- 
ions of my childhood. 

While I was waiting in the green-room for my 
turn to go on, Gounod came in haloed with tri- 
umph. I asked him what he thought of the audi- 

"I fancied that I saw the Valley of Jehoso- 
phat," he said. 

An amusing detail was told me afterwards. 

There was a considerable crowd outside and 
the people kept on trying to get in notwithstand- 
ing the loud protests of those already seated. 
Gounod shouted so as to be heard distinctly, "I 



will begin when everyone has gone out!" This 
amazing exclamation worked wonders. The 
groups which had blocked the entrance and ap- 
proaches to the Hippodrome recoiled. They 
vanished as if by magic. 

The second of the Concerts Historiques, 
founded by Vaucorbeil, the Director of the Na- 
tional Academy of Music at the time, took place 
at the Opera on May 20, 1880. He gave my sa- 
cred legend La Vierge. Mme. Gabrielle Krauss 
and Mile. Daram were the principals and splen- 
did interpreters they were. 

That work is a rather painful memory in my 
life. Its reception was cold and only one frag- 
ment seemed to satisfy the large audience which 
filled the hall. They encored three times the 
passage which is now in the repertoire of many 
concerts, the prelude to Part IV, Le Dernier Som- 
meil de la Vierge. 

Some years later the Societe des Concerts du 
Conservatoire twice gave the fourth part of La 
Vierge in its entirety. Mme. Ai'no Ackte was 
really sublime in her interpretation of the role of 
the Virgin. This success was completely satis- 
fying to me ; I had nearly said, the most precious 
of revenges. 




My trips to Italy, journeys devoted to follow- 
ing, if not to the preparation of, the successive 
performances of Le Roi de Lahore at Milan, Pia- 
cenza, Venice, Pisa and Trieste on the other side 
of the Adriatic, did not prevent my working on 
the score of Herodiade and it was soon finished. 

Perhaps such wanderings are surprising since 
they are so little to my taste. Many of my pu- 
pils, however, have followed my example in this 
regard and the reason is obvious. At the begin- 
ning of our careers we have to give hints to the 
orchestras, the stage manager, the artists and cos- 
turners; the why and wherefore of each scene 
must, oftentimes, be explained, and the tempo, as 
given by the metronome, is little like the true one. 

I have let such things go for a long time for 
they take care of themselves. It is true that, 
since I have been known for so many years, it 
would be difficult to make a choice and decide 
where I ought to go. And where should I begin 



'twere among my keenest desires personally 
to express my gratitude to all the directors and 
artists who now know my work. As to the hints 
I might have given them, they have gone ahead 
and departures from the true rendering have be- 
come rare, much more so than in the beginning 
when both directors and artists ignored my 
wishes and could not foresee them; in short, 
when my works were, to them, those of an un- 

I must recall, and I do so with sincere emotion, 
all I owe in the great provincial houses to those 
kind directors, so affectionately devoted to me: 
Graviere, Saugey, Villefranck, Rachet, and many 
others who can claim my thanks and my most 
grateful congratulations. 

During the summer of 1879 I lived at the sea- 
shore at Pourville near Dieppe. Hartmann, my 
publisher, and Paul Milliet, my collaborator, 
spent the Sundays with me. When I say with 
me, I abuse the words for I kept company but lit- 
tle with these excellent friends. I was accus- 
tomed to work fifteen or sixteen hours a day, 
sleep six hours, and my meals and dressing took 
the rest of the time. It is only through such tire- 
less labor continued without ceasing for years 



that works of great power and scope can be pro- 

Alexander Dumas, the Younger, whose modest 
contemporary I had been at the Institute for a 
year, lived in a superb property at Puys near 
Dieppe. His being near often furnished me with 
delightful pleasures. I was never so happy as 
when he came for me at seven o'clock in the eve- 
ning to take me to dinner. He brought me back 
at nine o'clock so as not to take up my time. He 
wanted me to have a friendly rest, and indeed it 
was a rest which was both exquisite and alto- 
gether delightful. It is easy to imagine what a 
treat the vivacious, sparkling, alluring conversa- 
tion of the celebrated Academician was to me. 

How I envied him then for those artistic joys 
which he had tasted and which I was to know 
later! He received and kept his interpreters at 
his home and made them work on their parts. 
At this time Mme. Pasca, the superb comedienne, 
was his guest. 

The score of Herodiade was finished at the be- 
ginning of 1881. Hartmann and Paul Milliet 
advised me to inform the directorate of the Opera. 
The three years I had given to Herodiade had 
been one uninterrupted joy to me. They were 



marked by a never to be forgotten and unex- 
pected concentration. 

In spite of the dislike I have always had for 
knocking at the doors of a theater, I had, never- 
theless, to decide to speak of this work and I went 
to the Opera and had an interview with M. Vau- 
corbeil, the Director of the National Academy of 
Music. Here is the conversation I was honored 

"My dear Director, as the Opera has been in 
a small way my house with Le Roi de Lahore, 
permit me to speak of a new work, Herodiade." 

"Who is your librettist?" 

"Paul Milliet, a man of considerable talent 
whom I like immensely." 

"I like him immensely too ; but with him one 
needs . . . (thinking of a word) ... a car- 


"A carcassier!" I replied in utter astonish- 
ment; "a carcassier! What kind of an animal 
is that?" 

"A carcassier" added the eminent director, 
sententiously, "a carcassier is one who knows 
how to fix up in solid fashion the carcass of a 
piece, and I may add that you are not enough of 
a carcassier in the strictest sense of the word. 



Bring me another work and the National Theater 
of the Opera will be open to you." 

I understood. The Opera was closed to me, 
and some days after this painful interview I 
learned that the scenery of Le Roi de Lahore had 
been relegated irrevocably to the storehouse in 
the Rue Richer which meant the final abandon- 

One day that same summer I was walking on 
the Boulevard des Capuchines, not far from the 
Rue Daunou; my publisher, George Hartmann, 
lived in a ground-floor apartment at the end of 
the court at No. 20 of this street. My thoughts 
were terribly dark. I went along with careworn 
face and fainting heart deploring the deceitful 
promises the directors had sprinkled on me like 
holy water, when I was suddenly saluted and 
stopped by one whom I recognized as M. Cala- 
bresi, director of the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie 
at Brussels. 

I stopped nonplussed. Must I put him too in 
my collection of wooden-faced directors? 

"I know," said M. Calabresi, as he accosted 
me, "that you have a great work, Herodiade. 
If you will give it to me, I will put it on at once 
at the Theatre de la Monnaie." 
k 127 


"But you don't know it," I said. 

"I would never dream of asking a hearing of 

"Well," I replied at once, "I will inflict it on 

"But I am going back to Brussels to-morrow 

"This evening, then," I retorted. "I shall 
expect you at eight o'clock in Hartmann's shop. 
It will be closed by that time ... we shall be 

I hurried to Hartmann's, radiant, and told him, 
laughing and crying, what had happened to me. 

A piano was brought immediately, and Paul 
Milliet was hurriedly informed. 

Alphonse de Rothschild, my colleague at the 
Academic des Beaux Arts, knew that I had to go 
to Brussels very often for the rehearsals of 
Herodiade. They were about to begin at the 
Theatre Royal de la Monnaie, and he wanted me 
to avoid delays at the stations so he gave me a 

They became so accustomed to seeing me cross 
the frontier at Feignies and Quevy that I became 
a real friend of the customs' officers, especially of 
those on the Belgian side. I remember that to 



thank them for their kind attentions I sent them 
seats for the Theatre de la Monnaie. 

A real ceremony took place at the Theatre 
Royal in the month of October of this same year 
1881. As a matter of fact Herodiade was the 
first French work to be created on the superb 
stage of the capital of Belgium. 

On the appointed day, my two excellent di- 
rectors, Stoumon and Calabresi, went with me 
as far as the great public foyer. It was a vast 
place with gilt paneling and was lighted from the 
colonnaded peristyle of the theater on the Place 
de la Monnaie. On the other side of the Place 
(a relic of old Brussels) was the Mint and, in a 
corner, the Stock Exchange. These buildings 
have since disappeared and have been replaced 
by a magnificent Post Office. The Exchange has 
been moved to a magnificent palace a short ways 

In the middle of the foyer to which I was taken 
was a grand piano about which there were twenty 
chairs arranged in a semi-circle. Besides the 
directors, there were my publisher and my col- 
laborator, as well as the artists we had selected 
to create the parts. At the head of these artists 
was Martha Duvivier, whose talent, fame, and 



beauty fitted her for the role of Salome; Mile. 
Blanche Deschamps, later the wife of the famous 
orchestra leader Leon Jehin, had the role of 
Herodiade; Vernet, Jean; Manoury, Herod; the 
elder Gresse, Phanuel. I went to the piano, 
turned my back towards the windows, and sang 
all the roles including the choruses. 

I was young, eager, happy, and, I add to my 
shame, very greedy. But if I accuse myself, it 
is to excuse myself for leaving the piano so 
often to get a bite at a table laden with exquisite 
food spread out on a plentiful buffet in the same 
foyer. Every time I got up, the artists stopped 
me as if to say, "Have pity. . . . Keep on. . . . 
Continue. . . . Don't stop again." I ate al- 
most all the food which had been prepared for 
us all. The artists were so much pleased that 
they thought more of embracing me than of eat- 
ing. Why should I complain? 

I lived at the Hotel de la Poste, Rue Fosse- 
aux-Loups, beside the theater. In the same 
room, on the ground floor on the corner of the 
hotel overlooking the Rue d' Argent, I wrote, the 
following autumn, the rough draft of the Sem- 
inaire act of Manon. Later on I preferred to live 
in the dear kindly Hotel du Grand-Monarque, 



Rue des Fripiers, and I continued to do so until 

This hotel plays a part in my deepest mem- 
ories. I lived there often with Reyer, the author J 
of Sigurd and of Salammbo, my colleague at 
the Academic des Beaux-Arts. There, we both 
lost our collaborator and friend Ernest Blau. 
He died here, and in spite of the custom that no 
funeral black shall be hung in front of a hotel, 
Mile. Wanters, the proprietress, insisted that the 
obsequies should be public and should not be 
concealed from the people who lived there. In 
the salon among strangers we said the tender 
words of farewell to the collaborator on Sigurd 
and Esclarmonde. 

A grim detail! Our poor friend Blau dined 
the evening of his death at the house of Stoumon, 
the director. As he was early, he stopped in the 
Rue des Sablons to look at some luxurious cof- 
fins displayed in an undertaker's shop. As we 
had just paid our last farewell and had placed 
the mortal remains of Blau in a temporary vault 
beside the casket of a young girl, which was cov- 
ered with white roses, one of the bearers observed 
that if he had been consulted the deceased could 
not have chosen a better neighborhood. The 



head undertaker reflected: "We have done 
things well. M. Blau noticed a fine coffin and we 
let him have it cheap." 

As we came from that vast cemetery, com- 
paratively empty at that time, we were all im- 
pressed by the poignant grief of Mme. Jeanne 
Raunay, the great artiste. She walked slowly by 
the side of the great master Gevaert. 

Oh, mournful winter day ! 

The rehearsals of Herodiade went on at the 
Monnaie. They were full of delirious joy and 
surprises for me. Its success was considerable. 
Here is what I find in the papers of the times. 

At last the great night came. 

From the night before Sunday the public 
formed lines at the entrance to the theater (the 
cheaper seats were not sold in advance at that 
time). The ticket sellers spent the whole night 
in this way, and while some sold their places in 
line at a high price on Monday morning, others 
held on and sold places in the pit for sixty francs 
on the average. A stall cost one hundred and 
fifty francs. 

That evening the auditorium was taken by 

Before the curtain rose, the Queen entered 


her stage box accompanied by two ladies of honor 
and Captain Chretien, the King's orderly. 

In the neighboring box were their Royal High- 
nesses the Count and Countess of Flanders, ac- 
companied by the Baron Van den Bossch d'Hylis- 
sem and Count Oultremont de Duras, grand mas- 
ter of the princely household. 

In the Court Boxes were Jules Devaux, chief 
of the King's cabinet; Generals Goethals and 
Goffinet, aides-de-camp; Baron Lunden, Colonel 
Baron Anethan, Major Donny, Captain Wycker- 
slooth, the King's orderlies. 

In the principal boxes: M. Antonin Proust, 
Minister of Fine Arts in France, with Baron 
Beyens, Belgian Minister to Paris, the heads of 
the cabinet, and Mme. Frere Orban, etc. 

In the lower stage box: M. Buls, recently 
elected Burgomaster, and the aldermen. 

In the stalls and balcony were numerous peo- 
ple from Paris: the composers, Reyer, Saint- 
Saens, Benjamin Godard, Joncieres, Guiraud, 
Serpette, Duvernois, Julien Porchet, Wormser, 
Le Borne, Lecocq, etc., etc. 

This brilliant emotional audience, said the 
chronicles of the time, made the work a de- 
lirious success. 

Between the second and the third acts Queen 
Marie Henriette summoned the composer to her 
box and congratulated him warmly, as well as 



Reyer whose Statue had just been given at the 

The enthusiasm swelled crescendo to the end 
of the evening. The last act ended amid cheers. 
There were loud calls for the composer and the 
curtain was raised several times, but the "author" 
did not appear. As the audience was unwilling 
to leave the house, the stage manager, Lapissida, 
who had staged the work, finally had to announce 
that the author had left as soon as the perform- 
ance ended. 

Two days after the Premiere the composer was 
invited to dine at Court and a royal decree ap- 
peared in the Moniteur naming him Chevalier de 
1'Ordre de Leopold. 

The dazzling success of the first performance 
was trumpeted through the European press, 
which, almost without exception, praised it in 
enthusiastic terms. As to the enthusiasm of the 
first days it continued persistently through fifty- 
five consecutive performances, which, according 
to the papers, realized four thousand francs every 
evening above the subscriptions. 

Herodiade, which made its first appearance on 
the stage of the Monnaie December 19, 1881, 
under the exceptionally brilliant circumstances 
just quoted from the newspapers of Belgium as 



well as of other countries, reappeared at this 
theater, after many revivals, during the first fort- 
night of November, 1911 nearly thirty years 
later. Herodiade long ago passed its hundredth 
performance at Brussels. 

And I was already thinking of a new work. 




One autumn morning in 1881 I was much dis- 
turbed, even anxious. Carvalho, the director of 
the Opera-Comique, had entrusted to me the 
three acts of Phoebe by Henri Meilhac. I had 
read and re-read them, but nothing in them ap- 
pealed to me; I clashed with the work which I 
had to do; I was nervous and impatient. 

With fine bravery I went to see Meilhac. The 
happy author of so many delightful works, of 
so many successes, was in his library, among his 
rare books in marvellous bindings, a fortune 
piled up in his rooms on the mezzanine floor in 
which he lived at 30 Rue Drouot. 

I can still see him writing on a small round 
table beside a large table of the purest Louis XIV 
style. He had hardly seen me than he smiled 
his good smile, as if pleased, in the belief that 
I brought news of our Phoebe. 
"Is it finished?" he asked. 
I retorted illico to this greeting, in a less as- 
sured tone: 



"Yes, it is finished; we will never speak of it 

A lion in his cage could not have been more 
abashed. My perplexity was extreme; I saw a 
void, nothingness, about me, when the title of a 
work struck me as a revelation. 

"Manon!" I cried, pointing to one of Meil- 
hac's books. 

"Manon Lescaut, do you mean Manon Les- 

"No, Manon, Manon short, Manon, it is 

Meilhac had separated from Dudovic Halevy 
a little while before and had associated himself 
with Philippe Gille, that fine, delightful mind, a 
tender-hearted and charming man. 

"Come to lunch with me to-morrow at Va- 
chette's," said Meilhac, "and I will tell you what 
I have done . . ." 

It is easy to imagine whether in keeping this 
engagement I had more curiosity in my heart or 
appetite in my stomach. I went to Vachette's 
and there to my inexpressible and delightful sur- 
prise I found beneath my napkin the first two 
acts of Manon. The other three acts followed 
within a few days. 



The idea of writing this work had haunted me 
for a long time. Now the dream was realized. 

Although I was much excited by the rehearsals 
of Herodiade and greatly upset by my frequent 
trips to Brussels, I was already at work on Manon 
in the summer of 1881. 

Meilhac went to live that summer in the Pavil- 
lion Henri IV at Saint-Germain. I used to sur- 
prise him there about five o'clock in the after- 
noon, when I knew the day's work would be done. 
Then, as we walked, we worked out new arrange- 
ments in the words of the opera. Here we de- 
cided on the Seminaire act, and, to bring off a 
greater contrast at the end of it, I demanded the 
act of Transylvania. 

How pleased I was in this collaboration, in 
that work in which we exchanged ideas with never 
a clash, in the mutual desire of reaching perfec- 
tion if possible. 

Philippe Gille shared in this useful collabora- 
tion from time to time, and his presence was dear 
to me. 

What tender, pleasing memories I have of this 
time at Saint-Germain, with its magnificent ter- 
race, and the luxuriant foliage of its beautiful 



forest. My work was well along when I had to 
return to Brussels at the beginning of the sum- 
mer of 1882. During my different sojourns at 
Brussels I made a delightful friend in Frederix, 
who showed rare mastery of the pen in his 
dramatic and lyric criticism in the columns of the 
Independance beige. He occupied a prominent 
position in journalism in his own country and 
was highly appreciated as well by the French 

He was a man of great worth, endowed with 
a charming character. His expressive, spirituel, 
open countenance rather reminded me of the old- 
est of the Coquelins. He was among the first 
of those dear good friends I have known whose 
eyes have closed in the long sleep, alas ! and who 
are no more either for me or for those who loved 

Our Salome, Martha Duvivier, had continued 
to sing the role in Herodiade throughout the new 
season, and had installed herself for the summer 
in a country house near Brussels. My friend 
Frederix carried me off there one day and, as I 
had the manuscript of the first acts of Manon 
with me, I risked an intimate reading before him 



and our beautiful interpreter. The impression 
I took away with me was an encouragement to 
keep on with the work. 

The reason I returned to Belgium at this time 
was that I had been invited to go to Holland un- 
der conditions which were certainly amusing. 

A Dutch gentleman, a great lover of music, 
with phlegm more apparent than real, as is often 
the case with those Rembrandt's country sends 
us, made me the most singular visit, as unex- 
pected as it well could be. He had learned that 
I was working on the romance of the Abbe Pre- 
vost, and he offered to install my penates at the 
Hague, in the very room in which the Abbe had 
lived. I accepted the offer, and I went and shut 
myself up this was during the summer of 1882 
in the room which the author of Les Memories 
d'un homme de qualite had occupied. His bed, 
a great cradle, shaped like a gondola, was still 

The days slipped by at the Hague in dream- 
ing and strolling over the dunes of Schleveningin 
or in the woods around the royal residence. 
There I made delightfully exquisite little friends 
of the deer who brought me the fresh breath of 
their damp muzzles. 



It was now the spring of 1883 I had re- 
turned to Paris and, as the work was finished, an 
appointment was made at M. Carvalho's. I 
found there our director, Mme. Miolan Car- 
valho, Meilhac, and Philippe Gille. Manon was 
read from nine in the evening until midnight. 
My friends appeared to be delighted. 

Mme. Carvalho embraced me joyfully, and 
kept repeating, 

"Would that I were twenty years younger!" 

I consoled the great artiste as best I could. 
I wanted her name on the score and I dedicated 
it to her. 

We had to find a heroine and many names were 
suggested. The male roles were taken by Tala- 
zac, Taskin and Cobalet a superb cast. But 
no choice could be made for Manon. Many had 
talent, it was true, and even great fame, but I 
did not feel that a single artist answered for the 
part as I wanted it and could play the perfidious 
darling Manon with all the heart I had put into 

However, I found a young artist, Mme. Vail- 
lant Couturier, who had such attractive vocal 
qualities that I trusted her with a copy of sev- 
eral passages of the score. I made her work at 



them at my publisher's. She was indeed my 
first Manon. 

They were playing at this time at Les Nou- 
veautes one of Charles Lecocq's great successes. 
My great friend, Marquis de la Valette, a Parisian 
of the Parisians, dragged me there one evening. 
Mile. Vaillant later Mme. Couturier the 
charming artiste of whom I have spoken, played 
the leading part adorably. She interested me 
greatly ; to my eyes she greatly resembled a young 
flower girl on the Boulevard Capucines. I had 
never spoken to this delightful young girl (proh 
pudor) but her looks obsessed me and her mem- 
ory accompanied me constantly; she was exactly 
the Manon I had had in my mind's eye during 
my work. 

I was carried away by the captivating artiste 
of Les Nouveautes, and I asked to speak to the 
friendly director of the theater, a free and open 
man, and an incomparable artist. 

"Illustrious master" he began, "what good 
wind brings you ? You are at home here, as you 

"I came to ask you to let me have Mile. Vail- 
lant for a new opera." 

"Dear man, what you want is impossible; I 


need Mile. Vaillant. I can't let you have her." 

"Do you mean it?" 

"Absolutely, but I think that if you would 
write a work for my theater, I would let you have 
this artiste. Is it a bargain, bibi?" 

Matters stayed there with only vague prom- 
ises on both sides. 

While this dialogue was going on, I noticed 
that the excellent Marquis de La Valette was 
much occupied with a pretty gray hat covered 
with roses passing back and forth in the foyer. 

All at once I saw the pretty hat coming to- 
wards me. 

"So a debutant no longer recognizes a debu- 

"Heilbronn!" I exclaimed. 


Heilbronn recalled the dedication written on 
the first work I had done and in which she had 
made her first appearance on the stage. 

"Do you still sing?" 

"No, I am rich, but nevertheless Shall I 
tell you? I miss the stage. It haunts me. 
Oh, if I could only find a good part!" 

"I have one in Manon." 

"Manon Lescaut?" 



"No, Manon. That is all." 

"May I hear the music?" 

"When you like." 

"This evening?" 

"Impossible, it is nearly midnight." 

"What? I can't wait till morning. I feel 
that there is something in it. Go and get the 
score. You will find me in my apartment (the 
artiste lived in the Champs filysees) with the 
piano open and the lights lit." 

I did as she said. 

I went home and got the score. Half-past 
four had struck when I sang the final bars of 
Manon's death. 

During my rendering Heilbronn was moved to 
tears. I heard her sigh through her sobs, "It is 
my life . . . that is my life." 

This time, as ever has been the case, the secpiel 
showed that I was right to wait, to take time in 
choosing an artist who would have to live my 

The day after he heard Manon, Carvalho 
signed the contract. 

The following year, after more than eighty 
consecutive performances, I learned of Marie 
Heilbronn's death! . . . 



I preferred to stop the performances rather 
than to see it sung by another. Some time after- 
wards the Opera-Comique went up in flames. 
Manon was not given again for ten years. Dear 
unique Sybil Sanderson took up the work at the 
Opera-Comique and she played in the two-hun- 
dredth performance. 

A glory was reserved for me on the five hun- 
dredth performance. Manon was sung by 
Marguerite Carre. A few months ago this cap- 
tivating, exquisite artist was applauded on the 
evening of the 740th performance. 

In passing I want to pay tribute to the beauti- 
ful artistes who have taken the part. I will men- 
tion Miles. Mary Garden, Geraldine Farrar, Lina 
Cavalieri, Mme. Brejean-Silver, Miles. Courte- 
nay, Genevieve Vix, Mmes. Edvina and Nicot- 
Vauchelet, and still other dear artistes. They 
will pardon me if all their names do not come to 
my grateful pen at the moment. 

The Italian Theatre (Maurel's Season), as I 
have already said, put on Herodiade two weeks 
after the first performance of Manon, with the 
following admirable artists: Fides Devries, 
Jean de Reszke, Victor Maurel, Edouard de 



As I write these lines in 1911, Herodiade con- 
tinues its career at the Theatre-Lyrique de la 
Gaite (under the management of the Isola 
brothers) who put on the work in 1903 with the 
famous Emma Calve. The day after the first 
performance of Herodiade in Paris I received 
these lines from our illustrious master, Gounod: 

Sunday, February 3, '84. 
My dear Friend: 

The noise of your success with Herodiade 
reaches me; but I lack that of the work itself, 
and I shall go to hear it as soon as possible, prob- 
ably Saturday. Again new congratulations, and 
Good luck to you, 


Meanwhile Marie Magdeleine went on its 
career in the great festivals abroad. I recall the 
following letter which Bizet wrote me some years 
before with deep pride. 

Our school has not produced anything like it. 
You give me the fever, brigand. 

You are a proud musician, I'll wager. 

My wife has just put Marie Magdeleine under 
lock and key ! 

That detail is eloquent, is it not? 

The devil! You've become singularly dis- 



As to that, believe me that no one is more sin- 
cere in his admiration and in his affection than 


That is the testimony of my excellent comrade 
and affectionate friend, George Bizet a friend 
and comrade who would have remained stead- 
fast had not blind destiny torn him from us in 
the full bloom of his prodigious and marvelous 

Still in the dawn of life when he passed from 
this world, he could have compassed everything 
in the art to which he devoted himself with so 
much love. 




As is my custom, I did not wait for Motions 
fate to be decided before I began to plague my 
publisher, Hartmann, to wake up and find me a 
new subject. I had hardly finished my plaint, 
to which he listened in silence with a smile on 
his lips, than he went to a desk and took out five 
books of manuscript written on the yellow paper 
which is well known to copyists. It was Le Cid, 
an opera in five acts by Louis Gallet and Edouard 
Blatt. As he offered me the manuscript, Hart- 
mann made this comment to which I had noth- 
ing to reply, "I know you. I had foreseen this 

I was bound to be pleased at writing a work 
based on the great Corneille's masterpiece, the 
libretto due to the fellow workers I had had in 
the competition for the Imperial Opera, La Coup 
de TOI de Thule, in which, as I have said, I failed 
to win the first prize. 

I learned the words by heart, as I always did. 



I wanted to have it constantly in my thoughts, 
without being compelled to keep the text in my 
pocket, so as to be able to work at it away from 
home, in the streets, in society, at dinner, at the 
theater, anywhere that I might find time. I get 
away from a task with difficulty, especially when, 
as in this case, I am gripped by it. 

As I worked I remembered that d'Ennery 
sometime before had entrusted to me an impor- 
tant libretto and that I had found a very moving 
situation in the fifth act. While the words did 
not appear sufficiently worth while to lead me to 
write the music, I wanted to keep this situation. 
I told the famous dramatist and I obtained his 
consent to interpolate this scene in the second 
act of Le Cid. Thus d'Ennery became a col- 
laborator. This scene is where Chimene finds 
that Rodriguez is her father's murderer. 

Some days later, as I was reading the romance 
of Guilhem de Castro, I came across an incident 
which became the tableau where the consoling 
apparition appears to the Cid as he is in tears 
the second tableau in the third act. I was in- 
spired to this by the apparition of Jesus to Saint 
Julien the Hospitalier. 

I continued my work on Le Cid wherever I 


happened to be, as the performances of Manon 
took me to the provincial theaters where they al- 
ternated it with Herodiade both in France and 

I wrote the ballet for Le Cid at Marseilles dur- 
ing a rather long stay there. I was very com- 
fortably established in my room, at the Hotel 
Beauveau, with its long latticed windows which 
looked out on the old port. The prospect was 
actually fairylike. This room was decorated 
with remarkable panels and mirrors, and when I 
expressed my astonishment at seeing them so 
well preserved, the proprietor told me that the 
room was an object of special care because Pagan- 
ini, Alfred de Musset and George Sand had all 
lived there once upon a time. The cult of mem- 
ories sometimes reaches the point of fetishism. 

It was spring. My room was scented with 
bunches of carnations which my friends in Mar- 
seilles sent me every day. When I say friends, 
the word is too weak; perhaps it is necessary to 
go to mathematics to get the word, and even 

The friends in Marseilles heaped upon me con- 
sideration, attention and endless kindness. 
That is the country where they sweeten the cof- 


fee by placing it outside on the balcony, for the 
sea is made of honey ! 

Before I left the kind hospitality of this Pho- 
cean city, I received the following letter from 
the directors of the Opera, Ritt and Gailhard: 

"My dear Friend, 

"Can you set the day and hour for your read- 
ing of Le Cid? 

"In friendship, 

"E. RITT." 

But I had brought from Paris keen anguish 
about the distribution of the parts. I wanted the 
sublime Mme. Fides Devries to create the part of 
Chimene, but they said that since her marriage 
she no longer wanted to appear on the stage. 
I also depended on my friends Jean and Edouard 
de Reszke, who came to Paris especially to talk 
about Le Cid. They were aware of my plans for 
them. How many times I climbed the stairs of 
the Hotel Scribe where they lived! 

At last the contracts were signed and finally 
the reading took place as the Opera requested. 

As I speak of the ballet in Le Cid I remember 
I heard the motif, which begins the ballet, in 
Spain. I was in the very country of Le Cid at 
the time, living in a modest inn. It chanced that 



they were celebrating a wedding and they danced 
all night in the lower room of the hotel. Several 
guitars and two flutes repeated a dance tune 
until they wore it out. I noted it down. It be- 
came the motif I am writing about, a bit of local 
color which I seized. I did not let it get away. 
I intended this ballet for Mile. Rosita Mauri who 
had already done some wonderful dances at the 
Opera. I even owed several interesting rhythms 
to the famous dancer. 

The land of the Magyars and France have been 
joined at all times by bonds of keen, cordial sym- 
pathy. It was not a surprise, therefore, when 
the Hungarian students invited forty Frenchmen 
I was one to go to Hungary for festivities 
which they intended to give in our honor. 

We started a joyous caravan one beautiful 
evening in August for the banks of the Danube, 
Frangois Coppee, Leo Delibes, Georges Clairin, 
Doctors Pozzi and Albert Rodin, and many other 
comrades and charming friends. Then, some 
newspaper men went along. Ferdinand de Les- 
seps was at our head to preside over us, by right 
of name if not by fame. Our illustrious com- 
patriot was nearly eighty at the time. He bore 
the weight of years so lightly that for a moment 



one would have thought he was the youngest in 
the lot. 

We started off in uproarious gaiety. The 
journey was one uninterrupted flow of jests and 
humorous wit, intermingled with farce and end- 
less pleasantries. 

The restaurant car was reserved for us. We 
did not leave it all night and our sleeping car was 
absolutely unoccupied. 

As we went through Munich, the Orient Ex- 
press stopped for five minutes to let off two trav- 
elers, a man and a woman, who, we did not know 
how, had contrived to squeeze into a corner of 
the dining car and who had calmly sat through 
all our follies. As they left the train, they made 
in a foreign accent this rather sharp remark, 
"Those distinguished persons seem rather com- 
mon." We certainly did not intend to displease 
that puritanical pair and we never overstepped 
the bounds of joviality and fun. 

That fortnight's journey continued full of in- 
cidents in which jokes contended with burlesque. 

Every evening, after the warmly enthusiastic 
receptions of the Hungarian youth, Ferdinand 
de Lesseps, our venerated chief, who was called 
in all the Hungarian speeches the "Great French- 



man," would leave us after fixing the order of 
the next day's receptions. As he finished ar- 
ranging our program, he would add, "To-mor- 
row morning, at four o'clock, in evening dress." 
And the "Great Frenchman" would be the first 
one up and dressed. When we congratulated 
him on his extraordinary youthful energy, he 
would apologize as follows: "Youth must wear 
itself out." 

During the festivities of every kind which they 
got up in our honor, they arranged for a gala 
spectacle, a great performance at the Theatre 
Royal in Budapest. Delibes and I were both 
asked to conduct an act from one of our works. 

When I reached the orchestra, amid hurrahs 
from the audience, only in Hungary they shout, 
"Elyen," I found on the desk the score ... of 
the first act of Coppelia, when I had expected to 
find before me the third act of Herodiade for me 
to conduct. So much the worse! There was 
no help for it and I had to beat time from 

The plot thickened. 

When Delibes, who had received the same 
honors that I had, saw the third act of Herodiade 
on his desk, with me rejoining my companions 


The Forum from the First Act of Roma. See page 300 


in the audience, he presented a unique spectacle. 
My poor dear great friend mopped his brow, 
turned this way and that, drew long breaths, 
begged the Hungarian musicians who didn't 
understand a word he said to give him the right 
score, but all in vain. 

He had to conduct from memory. This 
seemed to exasperate him, but Delibes, the ador- 
able musician, was far above a little difficulty like 

After this entertainment we were all present 
at an immense banquet where naturally enough 
toasts were de rigeur. I offered one to that great 
musician, Franz Liszt Hungary was honored in 
giving him birth. 

When Delibes's turn came, I suggested to him 
that I collaborate in his speech as we had done at 
the Opera with our scores. I spoke for him; he 
spoke for me. The result was a succession of 
incoherent phrases which were received by the 
frantic applause of our compatriots and by the 
enthusiastic "Elyens" of the Hungarians. 

I will add that Delibes and I, like all the rest, 
were in a state of delightful intoxication, for the 
marvellous vineyards of Hungary are verily those 
of the Lord himself. Something must be the 



matter with one's head, if he does not enjoy the 
charm of those wines with their voluptuous, 
heady bouquet. 

Four o'clock in the morning! We were, as 
ordered, in evening dress (indeed we had not 
changed it) and ready to go to lay wreaths on 
the tomb of the forty Hungarian martyrs who 
had died to free their country. 

But through all these mad follies, all these 
distractions, and impressive ceremonies, I was 
thinking of the rehearsals of Le Cid which were 
waiting for my return to Paris. When I got 
back, I found another souvenir of Hungary, a 
letter from the author of La Messe du Saint Graal, 
the precursor of Parsifal: 

"Most Honored Confrere: 

"The Hungarian Gazette informs me that you 
have testified benevolently in my favor at the 
French banquet at Budapest. Sincere thanks 
and constant cordiality. 

"F. LISZT." 
26 August, '85. Weimar. 

The stage rehearsals of Le Cid at the Opera 
were carried on with astonishing sureness and 
skill by my dear director, P. Gailhard, a master 
of this art who had been besides the most admir- 



able of artists on the stage. He did everything 
for the good of the work with an affectionate 
friendship. It is my pleasant duty to pay him 
honor for this. 

Later on I found him the same invaluable col- 
laborator when Ariane was put on at the Opera. 

On the evening of November 20, 1885, the 
Opera billed the first performance of Le Cid, 
while the Opera-Comique played the same eve- 
ning Manon, which had already passed its eight- 
ieth performance. 

In spite of the good news from the general 
rehearsal of Le Cid, I spent the evening with the 
artists at Manon. Needless to say all the talk in 
the wings of the Opera-Comique was of the first 
performance of Le Cid which was then in full 

Despite my apparent calmness, in my inmost 
heart I was extremely anxious, so the curtain had 
hardly fallen on the fifth act of Manon than I 
went to the Opera instead of going home. An 
irresistible power pulled me thither. 

As I skirted the outside of the house from 
which an elegant and large crowd was pouring, 
I overheard a snatch of conversation between a 
well known journalist and a reporter who hur- 



riedly inquired the results of the evening. "It 
is splitting, my dear chap." 

I was greatly troubled, as one would be in any 
case, and ran to the directors' room for further 
news. At the artists' entrance I met Mme. 
Krause. She embraced me in raptures and said, 
"It's a triumph!" 

Need I say that I preferred the opinion of this 
admirable artiste. She comforted me com- 

I left Paris (what a traveler I was then!) for 
Lyons, where they were giving both Herodiade 
and Manon. 

Three days after my arrival there, as I was 
dining at a restaurant with my two great friends 
Josephin Soulary, the fine poet of Les Deux 
Corteges, and Paul Marieton, the vibrant provin- 
cial poet, I was handed the following telegram 
from Hartmann : 

"Fifth performance of Le Cid postponed a 
month. Enormous advance sale returned. Ar- 
tists ill." 

I was nervous at the time ; I fainted away and 
remained unconscious so long that my friends 
were greatly alarmed. 



At the end of three weeks, however, Le Cid 
reappeared on the bills, and I realized once more 
that I was surrounded by deep sympathy, as the 
following letter shows: 

"My dear Confrere: 

"I must congratulate you on your success and 
I want to applaud you as quickly as possible. 
My turn for my box does not come around until 
Friday, December llth, and I beg you to arrange 
for Le Cid to be given on that day, Friday, De- 
cember 11. 


How touched and proud I was at this mark 
of attention from his Royal Highness the Due 
d'Aumale ! 

I shall always remember the delightful and 
inspiring days passed at the Chateau de Chan- 
tilly with my confreres at the Institute Leon Bon- 
nat, Benjamin Constant, Edouard Detaille, and 
Ger6me. Our reception by our royal host was 
charming in its simplicity and his conversation 
was that of an eminent man of letters, erudite 
but unpretentious. It was captivating and at- 
tractive for us when we all gathered in the library 
where the prince enthralled us by his perfect 



simplicity as he talked to us, pipe in his mouth, 
as he had so often done in camp among our sol- 

Only the great ones of earth know how to pro- 
duce such moments of delightful familiarity. 

And Le Cid went on its way both in the prov- 
inces and abroad. 

In October, 1900, the hundredth perform- 
ance was celebrated at the Opera and on Novem- 
ber 21, 1911, at the end of twenty-six years, I 
read in the papers: 

"The performance of Le Cid last night was 
one of the finest. A packed house applauded 
enthusiastically the beautiful work by M. Mas- 
senet and his interpreters: Mile. Breval, Mm. 
Franz and Delmas, and the star of the ballet, 
Mile. Zambelli." 

I had been particularly happy in the perform- 
ances of this work which had preceded this. 
After the sublime Fides Devries, Chimene was 
sung in Paris by the incomparable Mme. Rose 
Caron, the superb Mme. Adiny, the moving Mile. 
Merentie, and particularly by Louise Grandjean, 
the eminent professor at the Conservatoire. 




On Sunday, August first, Hartmann and I 
went to hear Parsifal at the Wagner Theater at 
Bayreuth. After we had heard this miracle 
unique we visited the capital of Upper Franconia. 
Some of the monuments there are worth while 
seeing. I wanted especially to see the city 
church. It is an example of the Gothic archi- 
tecture of the middle of the Fifteenth Century 
and was dedicated to Mary Magdalene. It is 
not hard to imagine what memories drew me to 
this remarkable edifice. 

After running through various German towns 
and visiting different theaters, Hartmann, who 
had an idea of his own, took me to Wetzler, where 
he had seen Werther. We visited the house 
where Goethe had written his immortal romance, 
The Sorrows of Young Werther. 

I knew Werther's letters and I had a thrilling 
recollection of them. I was deeply impressed 



by being in the house which Goethe made famous 
by having his hero live and love there. 

As we were coming out Hartmann said, "I 
have something to complete the obviously deep 
emotion you have felt." 

As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a book 
with a binding yellow with age. It was the 
French translation of Goethe's romance. "This 
translation is perfect," said Hartmann, in spite 
of the aphorism Traduttore traditore, that a trans- 
lation utterly distorts the author's thought. 

I scarcely had the book in my hands than I 
was eager to read it, so we went into one of those 
immense beer halls which are everywhere in 
Germany. We sat down and ordered two enor- 
mous bocks like our neighbors had. Among the 
various groups were students who were easily 
picked out by their scholars' caps and were play- 
ing cards or other games, nearly all with porce- 
lain pipes in their mouths. On the other hand 
there were few women. 

It is needless to tell what I endured in that 
thick, foul air laden with the bitter odor of beer. 
But I could not stop reading those burning letters 
full of the most intense passion. Indeed what 
could be more suggestive than the following 



lines, remembered among so many others, where 
keen anguish threw Werther and Charlotte into 
each other's arms after the thrilling reading of 
Ossian's verses ? 

"Why awakest me, breath of the Spring? 
Thou caresseth me and sayeth I am laden with 
the dew of heaven, but the time cometh when I 
must wither, the storm that must beat down my 
leaves is at hand. To-morrow the traveler will 
come ; his eye will seek me everywhere, and find 
me no more. ..." 

And Goethe adds: 

"Unhappy Werther felt crushed by the force 
of these words and threw himself before Char- 
lotte in utter despair. It seemed to Charlotte 
that a presentiment of the frightful project he 
had formed passed through her soul. Her 
senses reeled ; she clasped his hands and pressed 
them to her bosom; she leaned towards him ten- 
derly and their burning cheeks touched." 

Such delirious, ecstatic passion brought tears 
to my eyes. What a moving scene, what a pas- 
sionate picture that ought to make! It was 
Werther, my third act. 

I was now all life and happiness. I was 
wrapped up in work and in an almost feverish 



activity. It was a task I wanted to do but into 
which I had to put, if possible, the song of those 
moving, lively passions. 

Circumstances, however, willed that I put this 
project aside for the moment. Carvalho pro- 
posed Phoebe to me and chance led me to write 

Then came Le Cid to fill my life. At last in 
the summer of 1885, without waiting for the 
result of that opera, Hartmann, Paul Milliet, my 
great, splendid collaborator in Herodiade, and I 
came to an agreement to take up the task of writ- 
ing Wenher. 

In order to incite me to work more ardently 
(as if I had need of it) my publisher he had 
improvised a scenario engaged for me at the 
Reservoirs at Versailles, a vast ground floor apart- 
ment on the level of the gardens of our great 
Le Notre. 

The room in which I was installed had a lofty 
ceiling with Eighteenth Century paneling and it 
was furnished in the same period. The table at 
which I wrote was the purest Louis XV. Hart- 
mann had chosen everything at the most famous 

Hartmann had special aptitude for doing his 


share of the work. He spoke German very well; 
he understood Goethe; he loved the German 
mind; he stuck to it that I should undertake the 

So, when one day it was suggested that I write 
an opera on Murger's La Vie de Boheme, he took 
it on himself to refuse the work without consult- 
ing me in any way. 

I would have been greatly tempted to do the 
thing. I would have been pleased to follow 
Henry Murger in his life and work. He was an 
artist in his way. Theophile Gautier justly 
called him a poet, although he excelled as a 
writer of prose. I feel that I could have fol- 
lowed him through that peculiar world he cre- 
ated and which he has made it possible for us to 
cross in a thousand ways in the train of the most 
amusing originals we had ever seen. And such 
gaiety, such tears, such outbursts of frantic 
laughter, and such courageous poverty, as Jules 
Janin said, would, I think, have captivated me. 
Like Alfred de Musset one of his masters he 
had grace and style, ineffable tenderness, glad- 
some smiles, the cry of the heart, emotion. He 
sang songs dear to the hearts of lovers and they 
charm us all. His fiddle was not a Stradivarius, 



they said, but he had a soul like Hoffman's and 
he knew how to play so as to bring tears. 

I knew Murger personally, in fact so well that 
I even saw him the night of his death. I was 
present at a most affecting interview while I was 
there, but even that did not lack a comic note. It 
could not have been otherwise with Murger. 

I was at his bedside when they brought in M. 
Schaune (the Schaunardo of La Vie de Boheme) . 
Murger was eating magnificent grapes he had 
bought with his last louis and Schaune said 
laughing, "How silly of you to drink your wine 
in pills!" 

As I knew not only Murger but also Schaunard 
and Musette, it seemed to me that there was no 
one better qualified than I to be the musician of 
La Vie de Boheme. But all those heroes were 
my friends and I saw them every day, so that I 
understood why Hartmann thought the moment 
had not come to write that so distinctly Parisian 
work, to sing the romance that had been so great 
a part of my life. 

As I speak of that period which is already in 
the distant past, I glory in recalling that I knew 
Corot at Ville-d'Avray, as well as our famous 
Harpigmes, who despite his ninety-two years is, 


as I write, in all the vigor of his immense talent. 
Only yesterday he climbed gaily to my floor. 
Oh, the dear great friend, the marvellous artist 
I have known for fifty years ! 

When the work was done, I went to M. Car- 
valho's on the twenty-fifth of May. I had se- 
cured Mme. Rose Caron, then at the Opera, to 
aid me in my reading. The admirable artiste 
was beside me turning the pages of the manu- 
script and showing the deepest emotion at times. 
I read the four acts by myself, and when I reached 
the climax, I fell exhausted, annihilated. 

Then Carvalho came to me without a word, 
but he finally said: 

"I had hoped you would bring me another 
Manon! This dismal subject lacks interest. It 
is damned from the start." 

As I think this over to-day, I understand his 
impression perfectly, especially when I reflect on 
the years I had to live before the work came to 
be admired. 

Carvalho was kind and offered me some ex- 
quisite wine, claret, I believe, like what I had 
tasted one joyous evening I read Manon. . . . 
My throat was as dry as my speech; I went out 
without saying a word. 



The next day, horresco referens, yes, the next 
day I was again struck down, the Opera-Comique 
was no more. It had heen totally destroyed by 
fire during the night. I hurried to Carvalho's. 
We fell into each other's arms, embraced each 
other in tears and wept. My poor director was 
ruined. Inexorable fate! The work had to 
wait six years in silence and oblivion. 

Two years before the Opera at Vienna had put 
on Manon; the hundredth performance was 
reached and passed in a short time. The Aus- 
trian capital had given me a friendly and envi- 
able reception; so much so that it suggested to 
Van Dyck the idea of asking me for a work. 

Now I proposed Wenher. The lack of good 
will on the part of the French directors left me 
free to dispose of that score. 

The Vienna Opera was an imperial theater. 
The management asked the Emperor to place an 
apartment at my disposal and he graciously of- 
fered me one at the famous Hotel Sacher beside 
the Opera. 

My first call after my arrival was on Jahn, the 
director. That kindly, eminent master took me 
to the foyer where the rehearsals were to be held. 
It was a vast room, lighted by immense windows 



and provided with great chairs. A full length 
portrait of Emperor Francis Joseph ornamented 
one of the panels ; there was a grand piano in the 
center of the room. 

All the artists for Werther were gathered 
around the piano when Jahn and I entered the 
foyer. As they saw us they rose in a body and 
bowed in salutation. 

At this touching manifestation of respectful 
sympathy to which our great Van Dyck added 
a most affectionate embrace I responded by 
bowing in my turn ; and then a little nervous and 
trembling all over I sat down at the piano. 

The work was absolutely in shape. All the 
artists could sing their parts from memory. The 
hearty demonstrations they showered on me at 
intervals moved me so that I felt tears in my 

At the orchestra rehearsal this emotion was 
renewed. The execution was perfection ; the or- 
chestra, now soft, now loud, followed the shad- 
ing of the voice so that I could not shake off the 

The general rehearsal took place on February 
fifteenth from nine o'clock in the morning until 
midday and I saw (an ineffable, sweet surprise) 



in the orchestra stalls my dear publisher, Henri 
Heugel, Paul Milliet, my precious co-worker, and 
intimate friends from Paris. They had come so 
far to see me in the Austrian capital amid great 
and lively joys, for I had really been received 
there in the most exquisite and flattering manner. 

The performances that followed confirmed the 
impressions of the beautiful first performance of 
February 16, 1892. The work was sung by the 
celebrated artists Marie Renard and Ernest Van 

That same year, 1892, Carvalho again became 
the director of the Opera-Comique, then in the 
Place du Chatelet. He asked me for Werther, 
and in a tone so full of feeling that I did not hesi- 
tate to let him have it. 

The same week Mme. Massenet and I dined 
with M. and Mme. Alphonse Daudet. The other 
guests were Edmond de Goncourt and Charpen- 
tier, the publisher. 

After dinner Daudet told me that he wanted 
me to hear a young artiste. "Music herself," he 
said. This young girl was Marie Delna! At 
the first bars that she sang (the aria from the 
great Gounod's La Reine de Saba) I turned to 
her and took her hands. 



"Be Charlotte, our Charlotte," I said, utterly 
carried away. 

The day after the first performance at the 
Opera- Comique, in January, 1893, I received 
this note from Gounod: 

"Dear Friend: 

"Our most hearty congratulations on this 
double triumph and we regret that the French 
were not the first witnesses." 

The following touching and picturesque lines 
were sent me at the time by the illustrious archi- 
tect of the Opera. 

"Amico mio, 

Two eyes to see you, 
Two ears to hear you, 
Two lips to kiss you, 
Two arms to enfold you, 
Two hands to applaud you. 

"Two words to give thee all my compliments 
and to tell thee that thy Werther is an excellent 
hit do you know? I am proud of you, and for 
your part do not blush that a poor architect is en- 
tirely satisfied with you. 


In 1903, after nine years of ostracism, M. 


Albert Carre revived this forgotten work. With 
his incomparable talent, his marvellous taste, 
and his art, which was that of an exquisite man 
of letters, he knew how to present the work to the 
public so as to make it a real revelation. 

Many famous artistes have sung the role since 
that time: Mile. Marie de 1'Isle, who was the 
first Charlotte at the revival and who created the 
work with her fine, individual talents ; then Miles. 
Lamare, Cesbron, Wyns, Raveau, Mmes. de 
Nuovina, Vix, Hatto, Brohly, and . . . others 
whose names I will give later. 

At the revival due to M. Albert Carre, Werther 
had the great good fortune to have Leon Beyle 
as the protagonist of the part; later Edmond 
Clement and Salignac were also superb and thrill- 
ing interpreters of the work. 




But to go back to the events the day after the 
destruction of the Opera-Comique. 

The Opera-Comique was moved to the Place 
du Chatelet, in the old theater called Des Na- 
tions, which later became the Theatre Sarah 
Bernhardt. M. Paravey was appointed director. 
I had known him when he directed the Grand- 
Theatre at Nantes with real talent. 

Hartmann offered him two works: Edouard 
Lalo's Le Roi d'Ya and my W either on suffer- 

I was so discouraged that I preferred to wait 
before I let the work see the light. 

I have just written about its genesis and des- 

One day I received a friendly invitation to dine 
with a great American family. After I had de- 
clined, as I most often did I hadn't time, in 
addition to not liking that sort of distraction 
they insisted, however, so graciously that I could 
not persist in my refusal. It seemed to me that 



perhaps my afflicted heart might meet something 
there which would turn aside my discourage- 
ments. Does one ever know? . . . 

I was placed beside a lady who composed mu- 
sic and had great talent. On the other side of 
my neighbor was a French diplomat whose ami- 
able compliments surpassed, it seemed to me, all 
limits. Est modus in rebus, there are limits in 
all things, and our diplomat should have been 
guided by this ancient saying together with the 
counsel of a master, the illustrious Talleyrand, 
"Pas de zele, surtout!" 

I would not think of telling the exact conversa- 
tion which occurred in that charming place any 
more than I would think of giving the menu of 
what we had to eat. What I do remember is a 
salad a disconcerting mixture of American, 
English, German, and French. 

But my French neighbors occupied my entire 
attention, which gave me the chance to remem- 
ber this delightful colloquy between the lady 
composer and the diplomat. 

The Gentleman. "So you are ever the child 
of the Muses, a new Orphea?" 

The Lady. "Isn't music the consolation of 
souls in distress?" 



The Gentleman (insinuatingly). "Do you 
not find that love is stronger than sounds in ban- 
ishing heart pain?" 

The Lady. "Yesterday, I was consoled by 
writing the music to 'The Broken Vase.' ' 

The Gentleman (poetically). "A nocturne, 
no doubt, o . " 

I heard muffled laughter. The conversation 
took a new turn. 

After dinner we went into the drawing room 
for music. I was doing my best to obliterate 
myself when two ladies dressed in black, one 
young, the other older, came in. 

The master of the house hastened to greet 
them and I was presented to them almost at 

The younger was extraordinarily lovely; the 
other was her mother, also beautiful, with that 
thoroughly American beauty which the Starry 
Republic often sends to us. 

"Dear Master," said the younger woman with 
a slight accent, "I have been asked to come to 
this friendly house this evening to have the honor 
of seeing you and to let you hear my voice. I 
am the daughter of a supreme court judge in 
America and I have lost my father. He left my 



mother, my sisters, and me a fortune, but I want 
to go on the stage. If they blame me for it, after 
I have succeeded I shall reply that success ex- 
cuses everything." 

Without further preamble I granted her desire 
and seated myself at the piano. 

"You will pardon me," she added, "if I do not 
sing your music. That would be too audacious 
before you." 

She had scarcely said this than her voice 
sounded magically, dazzlingly, in the aria, 
"Queen of the Night," from the Magic Flute. 

What a fascinating voice ! It ranged from low 
G to the counter G three octaves in full 
strength and in pianissimo. 

I was astounded, stupefied, subjugated! 
When such voices occur, it is fortunate that they 
have the theater in which to display themselves ; 
the world is their domain. I ought to say that 
I had recognized in that future artiste, together 
with the rarity of that organ, intelligence, a flame, 
a personality which were reflected luminously in 
her admirable face. All these qualities are of 
first importance on the stage. 

The next morning I hurried to my publisher's 


to tell him about the enthusiasm I had felt the 
previous evening. 

I found Hartmann preoccupied. "It con- 
cerns an artist, right enough," he said. "I want 
to talk about something else and ask you, yes or 
no, whether you will write the music for the work 
which has just been brought me." And he 
added, "It is urgent, for the music is wanted for 
the opening of the Universal Exposition which 
takes place two years from now, in May, 1889." 

I took the manuscript and I had scarcely run 
through a scene or two than I cried in an out- 
burst of deep conviction, "I have the artiste for 
this part. I have the artiste. I heard her yes- 
terday! She is Mile. Sibyl Sanderson! She 
shall create Esclarmonde, the heroine of the new 
opera you offer me." 

She was the ideal artiste for the romantic work 
in five acts by Alfred Blau and Louis de Gramont. 

The new director of the Opera-Comique, who 
always showed me deference and perfect kind- 
ness, engaged Mile. Sibyl Sanderson and ac- 
cepted without discussion the salary we proposed. 

He left the ordering of the scenery and the 
costumes entirely to my discretion, and made me 



the absolute master and director of the 8ecor- 
ators and costumers whom I was to guide in en- 
tire accordance with my ideas. 

If I was agreeably satisfied by this state of 
affairs, M. Paravey for his part could not but 
congratulate himself on the financial results from 
Esclarmonde. It is but just to add that it was 
brought out at the necessarily brilliant period of 
the Universal Exposition in 1889. The first 
performance was on May 14 of that year. 

The superb artists who figured on the bill with 
Sibyl Sanderson were Mm. Bouvet, Taskin, and 

The work had been sung one hundred and one 
consecutive times in Paris when I learned that 
sometime since the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie 
at Brussels had engaged Sibyl Sanderson to cre- 
ate Esclarmonde there. That meant her en- 
forced disappearance from the stage of the Opera- 
Comique, where she had triumphed for several 

If Paris, however, must needs endure the si- 
lence of the artiste, applauded by so many and 
such varied audiences during the Exposition, if 
this star who had risen so brilliantly above the ho- 
rizon of the artistic heavens departed for a tune to 



charm other hearers, the great provincial houses 
echoed with the success in Esclarmonde of such 
famous artistes as Mme. Brejean-Silver at Bor- 
deaux; Mme. de Nuovina at Brussels, and Mme. 
Verheyden and Mile. Vuillaume at Lyons. 

Notwithstanding all this, Esclarmonde re- 
mained the living memory of that rare and beau- 
tiful artiste whom I had chosen to create the role 
in Paris; it enabled her to make her name for- 
ever famous. 

Sibyl Sanderson! I cannot remember that 
artiste without feeling deep emotion, cut down 
as she was in her full beauty, in the glorious 
bloom of her talent by pitiless Death. She was 
an ideal Manon at the Opera-Comique, and a 
never to be forgotten Thai's at the Opera. These 
roles identified themselves with her temperament, 
the choicest spirit of that nature which was one 

of the most magnificently endowed I have ever 

An unconquerable vocation had driven her 
to the stage, where she became the ardent inter- 
preter of several of my works. But for our part 
what an inspiring joy it is to write works and 
parts for artists who realize our very dreams ! 

It is in gratitude that in speaking of Esclar- 


monde I dedicate these lines to her. The many 
people who came to Paris from all parts of the 
world in 1889 have also kept their memories of 
the artiste who was their joy and who had so de- 
lighted them. 

A large, silent, meditative crowd gathered at 
the passing of the cortege which bore Sibyl San- 
derson to her last resting place. A veil of sor- 
row seemed to be over them all. 

Albert Carre and I followed the coffin. We 
were the first behind all that remained of her 
beauty, grace, goodness, and talent with all its 
appeal. As we noted the universal sorrow, Al- 
bert Carre interpreted the feeling of the crowd 
towards the beautiful departed, and said in these 
words, eloquent in their conciseness and which 
will survive, "She was loved!" 

What more simple, more touching, and more 
just homage could be paid to the memory of her 
who was no more? 

It is a pleasure to recall in a few rapid strokes 
the happy memory of the time I spent in writing 

During the summers of 1887 and 1888 I went 
to Switzerland and lived in the Grand Hotel at 
Vevey. I was curious to see that pretty town at 



the foot of Jorat on the shores of Lake Geneva 
and which was made famous by its Fete des 
Vigerons. I had heard it praised for the many 
charming walks in the neighborhood and the 
beauty and mildness of the climate. Above all 
I remembered that I had read of it in the "Con- 
fessions" of Jean Jacques Rousseau, who, at any 
rate, had every reason to love it, Mme. de War- 
ens was born there. His love for this delightful 
little city lasted through all his wanderings. 

The hotel was surrounded by a fine park which 
afforded the guests the shade of its large trees 
and led to a small harbor where they could em- 
bark for excursions on the lake. 

In August, 1887, 1 wanted to pay a visit to my 
master Ambroise Thomas. He had bought a 
group of islands in the sea near the North Coast 
and I had been there to see him. Doubtless my 
visit was pleasant to him, for I received from 
him the next summer in Switzerland the follow- 
ing pages: 

ILLIEC, Monday, August 20, 1888 

Thanks for your good letter, my dear friend. 

It has been forwarded to me in this barbarous 

island where you came last year. You remind 

me of that friendly visit of which we often speak, 



but we regret that we were only able to keep you 
two days. 

It was too short ! 

Will you be able to come again, or rather, shall 
I see you here again? You say you work with 
pleasure and you appear content. ... I con- 
gratulate you on it, and I can say without envy 
that I wish I were able to say as much for myself. 
At your age one is filled with confidence and 
zeal ; but at mine ! . . . 

I am taking up again, not without some diffi- 
culty, a work which has been interrupted for a 
long time, and what is better, I find that I am 
already rested in my solitude from the excitement 
and fatigue of life in Paris. 

I send you the affectionate regards of Mme. 
Ambroise Thomas, and I say au revoir, dear 
friend, with a good grip of the hand. 
Yours with all my heart, 


Yes, as my master said, I did work with pleas- 

Mile. Sibyl Sanderson, her mother and three 
sisters were also living at the Grand Hotel at 
Vevey and every evening from five o'clock until 
seven I made our future Esclarmonde work on 
the scene I had written that day. 


i > 

After Esclarmonde I did not wait for my mind 
to grow fallow. My publisher knew my sad feel- 
ings about Werther which I persisted in being un- 
willing to have given to a theater (no manage- 
ment had then made advances to obtain the 
work) and he opened negotiations with Jean 
Richepin. They decided to offer me a great sub- 
ject for the Opera on the story of Zoroaster, en- 
titled Le Mage. 

In the course of the summer of 1889 I already 
had several scenes of the work planned out. 

My excellent friend the learned writer on his- 
tory, Charles Malherbe, was aware of the few 
moments I made no use of, and I found him a 
real collaborator in these circumstances. In- 
deed, he chose among my scattered papers a se- 
ries of manuscripts which he indicated to me 
would serve in the different acts of Le Mage. 

P. Gailhard, our director at the Opera, was as 
ever the most devoted of friends. He put the 
work on with unheard of elaborateness. I owed 
to him a magnificent cast with Mmes. Fierens and 
Lureau Escalais and Mm. Vergnet and Delmas. 
The ballet was important and was staged in a 
fairylike way and had as its star Rosita Mauri. 



Although it was knocked about a good deal by 
the press, the work ran for more than forty per- 

Some were glad of the chance to seek a quarrel 
with our director who had played his last card 
and had arrived at the last month of his privilege. 
It was useless trouble on their part. Gailhard 
was shortly afterwards called upon to resume the 
managerial scepter of our great lyric stage. I 
found him there associated with E. Bertrand 
when Thais, of which I shall speak later, was put 

Apropos of this, some verses of the ever witty 
Ernest Reyer come to mind. Here they are: 

Le Mage est loin, Werther est proche, 
Et deja Thais est sous roche; 
Admirable fecondite . . . 
Moi, voila dix ans que je pioche 
Sur Le Capuchin enchante. 

You may be astonished at never having seen 

this work of Reyer's played. Here is the theme 
as he told it, with the most amusing seriousness, 
at one of our monthly dinners of the Institute, 
at the excellent Champeaux restaurant, Place de 

First and Only Act! 


The scene represents a public square; on the 
left the sign of a famous tavern. Enter from the 
right a Capuchin. He stares at the tavern door. 
He hesitates ; then, finally, he decides to cross the 
threshold and closes the door. Music in the or- 
chestra if desired. Suddenly, the Capuchin 
comes out again enchanted, assuredly en- 
chanted by the cooking! 

Thus the title of the work is explained; it has 
nothing to do with fairies enchanting a poor 




The year 1891 was marked by an event whicK 
had a profound effect on my life. In the month 
of May of that year the publishing house of Hart- 
mann went out of business. } 

How did it happen? What brought about 
this catastrophe? I asked myself these ques- 
tions but could get no answer. It had seemed to 
me that all was going as well as could be ex- 
pected with my publisher. I was utterly stupe- 
fied at hearing that all the works published by the 
house of Hartmann were to be put up at auction; 
that they would have to face the ordeal of a public 
sale. For me this was a most disturbing uncer- 

I had a friend who had a vault, and I entrusted 
to him the orchestral score and piano score of 
Werther and the orchestral score of Amadis. 
He put these valueless papers beside his valua- 
bles. The scores were in manuscript. 

I have already written of the fortunes of 


WertJier, and perhaps I shall of Amadis, the text 
of which was by our great friend Jules Claretie 
of the French Academy. 

As may be imagined, my anxiety was very 
great. I expected to see my labor of many years 
scattered among all the publishers. Where 
would Manon go? Where would Herodiade 
bring up? Who would get Marie Magdeleine? 
Who would have my Suites a" Orchestra? All 
this disturbed my muddled brain and made me 

Hartmann had always shown me so much 
friendliness and sensitiveness in my interests, 
and he was, I am sure, as sorrowful as I was 
about this painful situation. 

Henri Heugel and his nephew Paul-Emile 
Chevalier, owners of the great firm Le Menestrel, 
were my saviors. They were the pilots who kept 
all the works of my past life from shipwreck, pre- 
vented their being scattered, and running the 
risks of adventure and chance. 

They acquired all of Hartmann's assets and 
paid a considerable price for them. 

In May, 1911, I congratulated them on the 
twentieth anniversary of the good and friendly re- 
lations which had existed between us and at the 



same time I expressed the deep gratitude I cher- 
ish towards them. 

How many times I had passed by Le Menestrel, 
and envied without hostility those masters, those 
published, all those favored by that great house ! 

My entrance to Le Menestrel began a glorious 
era for me, and every time I go there I feel the 
same deep happiness. All the satisfactions I en- 
joy as well as the disappointments I experience 
find a faithful echo in the hearts of my publishers. 

Some years later Leon Carvalho again became 
the manager at the Opera-Comique. M. Para- 
vey's privilege had expired. 

I recall this card from Carvalho the day after 
he left in 1887. He had erased his title of "di- 
recteur." It expressed perfectly his sorrowful 
resignation : 

"My dear Master, 

"I scratch out the title, but I retain the mem- 
ory of my great artistic joys where Manon holds a 
first place. . . . 

"What a fine diamond! 


His first thought was to revive Manon which 
had disappeared from the bills since the fire of 



mournful memory. This revival was in Octo- 
ber, 1892. 

Sibyl Sanderson, as I have said, had been en- 
gaged for a year at the Theatre de la Monnaie at 
Brussels. She played Esclarmonde and Manon. 
Carvalho took her from the Monnaie to revive 
Manon in Paris. The work has never left the 
bills since and, as I write it, has reached its 
763rd performance. 

At the beginning of the same year Werther 
was given at Vienna as well as a ballet : Le Caril- 
lon. The applauded collaborators were our Des 
Grieux and our German Werther: Ernest Van 
Dyck and de Roddaz. 

It was on my return from another visit to 
Vienna that my faithful and precious collaborator 
Louis Gallet paid me a visit one day at Le Menes- 
trel. My publishers had arranged a superb 
study where I could rehearse my artists from 
Paris and elsewhere in their parts. Louis Gallet 
and Heugel proposed to me a work on Anatole 
France's admirable romance Thais. 

I was immediately carried away by the idea. 
I could see Sanderson in the role of Thais. She 
belonged to the Opera-Comique so I would do 
the work for that house. 



Spring at last permitted me to go to the sea- 
shore where I have always liked to live and I left 
Paris with my wife and daughter, taking with me 
all that I had composed of the work with so much 

I took with me a friend who never left me day 
or night an enormous gray Angora cat with 
long silky hair. 

I worked at a large table placed on a veranda 
against which the waves of the sea sometimes 
broke heavily and scattered their foam. The cat 
lay on the table, sleeping almost on my pages 
with an unceremoniousness which delighted me. 
He could not stand such strange noises and every 
time it happened he pushed out his paws and 
showed his claws as if to drive the sea away. 

I know some one else who loves cats, not more 
but as much as I do, the gracious Countess Marie 
de Yourkevitch, who won the grand gold medal 
for piano playing at the Imperial Conservatoire of 
Music at St. Petersburg. She has lived in Paris 
for some years in a luxurious apartment where 
she is surrounded by dogs and cats, her great 

"Who loves animals, loves people," and we 


know that the Countess is a true Maecenas to ar- 

The exquisite poet Jeanne Dortzal is also a 
friend of these felines with the deep-green enig- 
matic eyes ; they are the companions of her work- 
ing hours. 

I finished Thais at the Rue du General Foy, in 
my bedroom where nothing broke the silence ex- 
cept the crackling of the Yule logs which burned 
in the fireplace. 

At that time I did not have a mass of letters 
which I must answer, as is the case now ; I did not 
receive a quantity of books which I must run 
over so that I could thank the authors; neither 
was I absorbed in incessant rehearsals, in short, 
I did not lead the sort of a life I would willingly 
qualify as infernal, if it were not my rule not to go 
out in the evening. 

At six in the morning I received a call from my 
masseur. His cares were made necessary by 
rheumatism in my right hand, and I had some 
trouble with it. 

Even at this early morning hour I had been 
at work for some time, and this practitioner, Im- 
bert, who was in high good standing with his cli- 



ents, brought me morning greetings from Alex- 
ander Dumas the Younger from whose house he 
had just come. As he came, he said, "I left the 
master with his candles lighted, his beard 
trimmed, and comfortably installed in his white 
dressing gown." 

One morning he brought me these words a 
reply to a reproach I had allowed myself to make 
to him: 

"Confess that you thought that I had forgotten 
you, man of little faith. 

"A. DUMAS." 

Between whiles, and it was a delightful distrac- 
tion, I had written Le Portrait de Manon, a de- 
lightful act by Georges Boyer, to whom I already 
owed the text of Les Enfants. 

Some good friends of mine, Auguste Cain, the 
famous sculptor of animals, and his dear wife, 
had been generous and useful to me in difficult 
circumstances, and I was delighted to applaud 
the first dramatic work of their son Henri Cain. 
His success with La Vivandiere affirmed his talent 
still more. The music of this work in three acts 
was the swan song of the genial Benjamin God- 



ard. Ah! the dear great musician who was a 
real poet from his youth up, in the first bars he 
wrote. Who does not remember his masterpiece 
Le Tasse? 

As I was strolling one day in the gardens of the 
dismal palace of the dukes d'Este at Ferrare, I 
picked a branch of oleander which was just in 
blossom and sent it to my friend. My gift re- 
called the incomparable duet in the first act of 
Le Tasse. 

During the summer of 1893 my wife and I 
went to Avignon. This city of the popes, the 
terre papale, as Rabelais called it, attracted me 
almost as much as that other city of the popes, 
ancient Rome. 

We lived at the excellent Hotel de 1'Europe, 
Place Grillon. Our hosts, M. and Mme. Ville, 
were worthy and obliging persons and were full 
of attention for us. That was imperative for I 
needed quiet to write La Navarraise, the act 
which Jules Claretie had entrusted to me and my 
new librettist Henri Cain. 

Every evening at five o'clock our hosts, who 
had forbidden our door all day with jealous care, 
served us a delicious lunch. My friends, the 



Provengal poets, used to gather around, and 
among them was Felix Gras, one of my dearest 

One day we decided to pay a visit to Frederic 
Mistral, the immortal poet of Provence who 
played a large part in the renaissance of the 
poetic language of the South. 

He received us with Mme. Mistral at his home 
which his presence made ideal at Millane. 
He showed when he talked that he knew not only 
the science of Form hut also that general knowl- 
edge which makes great writers and makes a poet 
of an artist. As we saw him we recalled that 
Belle d'aout, the poetical story full of tears and 
terrors, then the great epic of Mirelle, and so 
many other famous works besides. 

By his walk and vigor one recognized him as 
the child of the country, but he was a gentleman 
farmer, as the English say; although he is not 
any more a peasant on that account, as he wrote 
to Lamartine, than Paul-Louis Courier, the bril- 
liant and witty pamphleteer, was a cultivator of 

We returned to Avignon full of the inexpres- 
sible enveloping charm of the hours we had 
passed in the house of this great, illustrious poet. 



The following winter was entirely devoted to 
the rehearsals of Thais at the Opera. I say at 
the Opera in spite of the fact that I wrote the 
work for the Opera-Comique where Sanderson 
was engaged. She triumphed there in Manon 
three times a week. 

What made me change the theater? Sander- 
son was dazzled by the idea of entering the Opera, 
and she signed a contract with Gailhard without 
even taking the mere trouble of informing Car- 
valho first. 

Heugel and I were greatly surprised when Gail- 
hard told us that he was going to give Thais at 
the Opera with Sibyl Sanderson. "You've got 
the artist ; the work will follow her ! " There was 
nothing else for me to say. I remember, how- 
ever, how bitterly Carvalho reproached me. He 
almost accused me of ingratitude, and God knows 
that I did not deserve that. 

Thais was interpreted by Sibyl Sanderson; 
J. F. Delmas, who made the role of Athanael one 
of his most important creations; Alvarez, who 
consented to play the role of Nicias, and Mme. 
Heglon, who also acted in the part which de- 
volved upon her. 

As I listened to the final rehearsals in the 


depths of the empty theater, I lived over again my 
ecstatic moments before the remains of Thai's of 
Antinoe, beside the anchorite, who had been be- 
witched by her grace and charm. We owed this 
impressive spectacle which was so well calculated 
to impress the imagination to a glass case in the 
Guimet Museum. 

The evening of the dress rehearsal of Thais I 
escaped from Paris and went to Dieppe and Pour- 
ville, with the sole purpose of being alone and 
free from the excitements of the great city. I 
have said already that I always tear myself away 
in this fashion from the feverish uncertainties 
which hover over every work when it faces the 
public for the first time. No one can tell before- 
hand the feeling that will move the public, 
whether its prejudices or sympathies will draw it 
towards a work or turn it against it. I feel weak 
before the baffling enigma, and had I a conscience 
a thousand times more tranquil, I would not 
want to attempt to pierce the mystery! 

The day after my return to Paris Bertrand and 
Gailhard, the two directors of the Opera, called 
on me. They appeared to be down at the mouth. 
I could only get sighs from them or a word or 
two, which in their laconicism spoke volumes, 



"The press ! Immoral subject ! It's done for!" 
These words were so many indications of what the 
performance must have been. 

So I told myself. Nevertheless seventeen 
years have gone and the piece is still on the bills, 
and has been played in the provinces and abroad, 
while at the Opera itself Thais has long since 
passed its hundredth performance. 

Never have I so regretted letting myself go in 
a moment of disappointment. It is true that it 
was only a passing one. Could I foresee that I 
should see again this same score of Thais, dated 
1894, in the salon of Sibyl Sanderson's mother, 
on the music rest of the very piano at which that 
fine artiste, long since no more, studied? 

To accustom the public to the work, the direc- 
tors of the Opera associated with it a ballet from 
the repertoire. Subsequently Gailhard saw that 
the work pleased, and in order to make it the only 
performance of the evening he asked me to add 
a tableau, the Oasis, and a ballet to the third act. 
Mile. Berthet created this new tableau and Zam- 
belli incarnated the new ballet. 

Later, the title role was sung in Paris by Miles. 
Alice Verlet and Mary Garden and Mme. Kous- 
nezoff. I owe some superb nights at the Opera 



to them. Genevieve Vix and Mastio sang it in 
other cities. I wait to speak of Lina Cavalieri 
for she was to be the creator of the work at Milan, 
October, 1903. This creation was the occasion 
for my last journey to Italy up to now. 




I regret all the more that I have given up trav- 
eling, for I seem to have become lazy in this re- 
gard, since my visits to Milan were always so de- 
lightful I was going to say adorable thanks 
to the friendly Edouard Sonzogno, who con- 
stantly paid me the most delicate and kindly at- 

What delightful receptions, and perfectly ar- 
ranged and elaborate dinners, we had at the fine 
mansion at 11 Via Goito! What bursts of 
laughter and gay sallies there were; what truly 
enchanted hours I passed there, with my Italian 
confreres, invited to the same love-feast as I, at 
the house of the most gracious of hosts : Umberto 
Giordano, Cilea and many others ! 

In this great city I had excellent friends and 
illustrious ones as well, as Mascagni and Leonca- 
vallo, whom I had known before and had had as 
friends in Paris. They did not then foresee the 



magnificent situation they would create for them- 
selves one day at the theater. 

In Milan my old friend and publisher Giulio 
Ricordi also invited me to his table. I was sin- 
cerely moved at finding myself again in the bosom 
of the Ricordi family to whom I was attached by 
so many charming memories. It is unnecessary 
to add that we drank to the health of the illustri- 
ous Puccini. 

Among my memories of Milan I have kept the 
recollection of being present at Caruso's debut. 
The now famous tenor was very modest then; 
and when, a year afterwards, I saw him wrapped 
in an ample fur-coat, it was obvious that the fig- 
ures of his salary must have mounted crescendo. 
As I saw him I did not envy him his brilliant for- 
tune or his undoubted talent, but I did regret 
that winter especially that I could not put his 
rich warm coat on my back. ... It snowed, in- 
deed, in Milan, in large and seemingly endless 
flakes. It was a hard winter. I remember that 
once I hadn't enough bread from my breakfast to 
satisfy the appetite of some thirty pigeons which, 
shivering and trembling with cold, came to my 
balcony for shelter. Poor dear little creatures! 
I regretted that I could not do more for them. 



And involuntarily I thought of their sisters in the 
Piazza Saint Marc, so pretty, so friendly, who at 
that instant must be just as cold. 

I have to confess to a flagrant but entirely inno- 
cent joke that I played at a dinner of Sonzogno's, 
the publisher. Everyone knew of the strained 
relations between him and Ricordi. I slipped 
into the dining room before any of the guests had 
gone in and placed under Sonzogno's napkin an 
Orsini bomb, which I had bought and which was 
really awe inspiring be reassured, it was only 
of cardboard and from the confectioner's. Be- 
side this inoffensive explosive I placed Ricordi's 
card. The joke was a great success. The din- 
ers laughed so much that during the whole meal 
nothing else was talked about and little attention 
was paid to the menu, in spite of the fact that we 
knew that it must inevitably be appetizing, like 
all those to which we had to do honor in that opu- 
lent house. 

I always had the glorious good fortune to have 
as my interpreter of Sapho in Italy La Bellincioni, 
the Duse of opera. In 1911 she continued her 
triumphal career at the Opera in Paris. 

I have mentioned that Cavalieri was to create 
Thais in Milan. Sonzogno insisted strongly that 





I should let her see the part before I left. I 
remember the considerable success she had in the 
work al teatro lirico of Milan. Her beauty, 
her admirable plasticity, the warmth and color of 
her voice, her passionate outbursts simply 
gripped the public which praised her to the skies. 

She invited me to a farewell dinner at the Hotel 
de Milan. The table was covered with flowers 
and it was laid in a large room adjoining the 
bedroom where Verdi had died two years before. 
The room was still furnished just as it had been 
when the illustrious composer lived there. The 
great master's grand piano was still there, and on 
the table where he had worked were the inkstand, 
the pen and the blotting paper which still bore 
the marks of the notes he had traced. The dress 
shirt the last one he wore hung on the wall 
and one could still see the lines of the body it 
had covered. ... A detail which hurt my feel- 
ings and which only the greedy curiosity of 
strangers can account for, was that bits of the 
linen had been boldly cut off and carried away as 

Verdi! The name signifies the whole of vic- 
torious Italy from Victor Emanuel II down to our 
own times. Bellini, on the other hand, is the 



image of unhappy Italy under the yoke of the 

A little while after the death of Bellini in 1835 
that never to be forgotten author of La Som- 
nanbula and La Norma Verdi, the immortal 
creator of so many masterpieces, came on the 
scene and with rare fertility never ceased to pro- 
duce his marvellous works which are in the reper- 
toire of all the theaters in the world. 

About two weeks before Verdi's death I found 
at my hotel the great man's card with his regards 
and best wishes. 

In a remarkable study of Verdi Camille Bel- 
laigue uses the following words about the great 
master. They are as just as they are beautiful. 

"He died on January 27, 1901, in his eighty- 
eighth year. In him music lost some of its 
strength, light and joy. Henceforth a great, 
necessary voice will be missing from the balance 
of the European 'concert.' A splendid bower 
has fallen from the chaplet of Latin genius. I 
cannot think of Verdi without recalling that fa- 
mous phrase of Nietzsche, who had come back 
from Wagnerism and had already turned against 
the composer: 'Music must be Mediterranean- 
ized.' Certainly not all music. But to-day as 



the old master has departed, that glorious host of 
the Doria palace, from which each winter his 
deep gaze soared over the azure of the Ligurian 
sea, one may well ask who is to preserve the rights 
and influence of the Mediterranean in music?" 

To add another of my memories of Thais I re- 
call two letters which must have touched me 

August 1, 1892 

... I brought a little doll Thai's to the Insti- 
tute for you, and as I was going to the country 
after the session and you were not there, I left it 
with Bonvalot and begged him to handle her care- 
fully. . . . 

I return in a day or so, for on Saturday we 
receive Fremiet who wishes me to thank you for 
voting for him. 


I wanted this colored statuette by my illustri- 
ous colleague to place on my table as I wrote 
Thais. I have always liked to have before my 
eyes an image or a symbol of the work on which 
I am engaged. 

The second letter I received the day after the 
first performance of Thais at the Opera. 



Dear Master: 

You have lifted my poor Thais to the first rank 
of operatic heroines. You are my sweetest 
glory. I am delighted. "Assieds-toi pres de 
nous," the aria to Love, the final duet, is charm- 
ingly beautiful. 

I am happy and proud at having furnished you 
with the theme on which you have developed the 
most inspiring phrases. I grasp your hand with 


I had already been to Covent Garden twice. 
First, for Le Roi de Lahore, and then for Manon 
which was sung by Sanderson and Van Dyck. 

I went back again for the rehearsals of La Nav- 
arraise. Our principal artists were Emma 
Calve, Alvarez and Plancon. 

The rehearsals with Emma Calve were a great 
honor for me and a great joy as well, which I was 
to renew later in the rehearsals for Sapho in 

The Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, at- 
tended the first performance of La Navarraise. 

The recalls of the artists were so numerous and 
enthusiastic that finally they called for me. As 
I did not appear, for the good reason that I was 
not there, and could not be presented to the 



Prince of Wales who wanted to congratulate me, 
the manager could find only this way to excuse 
me both to the prince and to the public. He 
came on the stage and said, "M. Massenet is out- 
side smoking a cigarette and won't come." 

Doubtless this was true, but "the whole truth 
should not always be spoken." 

I returned on board the boat with my wife, 
Heugel, my dear publisher, and Adrien Bern- 
heim, the Governmental Commissary General of 
the subsidized theaters, who had honored the per- 
formance with his presence. Ever since he has 
been one of my most charming and dearest 

I learned that her Majesty Queen Victoria sum- 
moned Emma Calve to Windsor to sing La Nav- 
arraise, and I was told that they improvised a 
stage setting in the queen's own drawing room, 
which was most picturesque but primitive. The 
Barricade was represented by a pile of pillows 
and down quilts. 

Have I said that in the month of May preced- 
ing La Navarraise in London (June 20, 1894), 
the Opera-Comique gave Le Portrait de Manon, 
an exquisite act by Georges Boyer, which was de- 



lightfully interpreted by Fugere, Grivot and Mile. 

Many of the phrases of Manon reappeared 
in the work. The subject prompted me to this, 
for it is concerned with Des Grieux at forty, a 
poetical souvenir of Manon long since dead. 

Between whiles I again visited Bayreuth. I 
went to applaud the Meister singers of Nurem- 

Richard Wagner had not been there for many a 
long year, but his titanic soul ruled over all the 
performances. As I strolled in the gardens 
about the theater at Bayreuth, I recalled that I 
had known him in 1861. I had lived for ten 
days in a small room near him in the Chateau de 
Plessis-Trevise, which belonged to the celebrated 
tenor Gustave Roger. Roger knew German and 
offered to do the French translation of Tann- 
hauser. So Richard Wagner came to live with 
him properly to set the French words to music. 

I still remember his vigorous interpretation 
when he played on the piano fragments of that 
masterpiece, then so clumsily misunderstood and 
now so much admired by the whole world of art 
and music. 




Henri Cain had accompanied us to London and 
came to see me at the Cavendish Hotel, Jermyn 
Street, where I was staying. 

We remained in conference for several hours 
reviewing different subjects which were suitable 
for works to occupy me in the future. Finally 
we agreed on the fairy story of Cinderilla: Cen- 

I returned to Pont de 1'Arche a new home 
for my wife and me to work during the sum- 

Our home was most interesting and even had a 
historical value. A massive door hung on enor- 
mous hinges gave access on the street side to an 
old mansion. It was bordered by a terrace which 
looked down on the valley of the Seine and the 
Andelle. La Belle Normandie indeed offered us 
the delightful spectacle of her smiling, magnifi- 
cent plains and her rich pastures stretching to 
the horizon and beyond. 



The Duchess of Longueville, the famous hero- 
ine of La Fronde, had lived in this house it was 
the place of her loves. The seductive Duchess 
with her pleasant address and gestures, together 
with the expression of her face and the tone of 
her voice, made a marvellous harmony. So much 
so that a Jansenist writer of the period said, "She 
was the most perfect actress in the world." 
This splendid woman here sheltered her charms 
and rare beauty. One must believe that they 
have not exaggerated about her for Victor Cousin 
became her posthumous lover (along with the 
Due de Coligny, Marcillac, the Due de la Roche- 
foucauld, and the great Turenne; he might have 
been in less brilliant company) ; but as we said, 
the illustrious eclectic philosopher dedicated to 
her a work which was no doubt admirable in 
style but which is still considered one of the most 
complete examples of modern learning. 

She was born a Bourbon Conde, the daughter 
of the Prince of Orleans, and the fleurs de lys 
which were hers by right were still visible on the 
keystones of the window arches of our little cha- 

There was a large white salon with delicately 
carved woodwork, which was lighted by three win- 



dows overlooking the terrace. It was a perfectly 
preserved masterpiece of the Seventeenth Cen- 

The room where I worked was also lighted by 
three windows and here one could admire a man- 
tel, a real marvel of art in Louis XIV style. I 
found a large table of the same period at Rouen. 
I was at ease at it because I could arrange the 
leaves of my orchestral score on it. 

It was at Pont de 1'Arche that I learned one 
morning of Mme. Carvalho's death. This was 
bound to plunge the art of singing and the stage 
in deep mourning for she had been with her mas- 
terly talent the incarnation of both for long years. 
Here too I received the visit of my director, Leon 
Carvalho, who was terribly stricken by her death. 
He was overcome by this irreparable loss. 

Carvalho came to ask me to finish the music 
of La Vivandiere, a work on which Benjamin God- 
ard was working, but which the state of his health 
led them to fear he would never finish. 

I refused this request curtly. I knew Ben- 
jamin Godard and his strong-mindedness as well 
as the wealth and liveliness of his inspiration. I 
asked Carvalho not to tell of his visit and to let 
Benjamin Godard finish his own work. 



That day ended with a rather drole incident. 
I set out to get a large carriage to take my guests 
to the station. At the appointed time an open 
landau appeared at my door. It had at least six- 
teen springs, was lined with blue satin, and one 
got in by a triple step-ladder arrangement which' 
folded up when the door was closed. Two thin, 
lanky white horses, real Rossinantes, were har- 
nessed to it. 

My guests at once recognized this historic 
looking coach for they had often met its owners 
riding in it on the Bois de Boulogne. Public 
malice had found these people so ridiculous that 
they had given them a nickname which in the 
interests of decorum I must refrain from men- 
tioning. I will only say that it was borrowed 
from the vocabulary of zoology. 

Never had the streets of that little town, 
usually so calm and peaceful, echoed with such 
shouts of laughter. They did not stop till the 
station was reached, and I will not swear that 
they were not prolonged after that. 

Carvalho decided to give La Navarraise at the 
Opera-Comique in May, 1895. 

I went to Nice to finish Cendrillon at the Hotel 


de Suede. We were absolutely spoiled by our 
charming hosts M. and Mme. Roubion. When 
I was settled at Nice, I got away to Milan for 
ten days to give hints to the artists of the admir- 
able La Scala Theatre who were rehearsing La 
Navarraise. The protagonist was Lison Fran- 
din, an artist known and loved by all Italy. 

As I knew that Verdi was at Genoa, I took ad- 
vantage of passing through that city on the way 
to Milan to pay him a visit. 

When I arrived at the first floor of the old pal- 
ace of the Dorias, where he lived, I was able to 
decipher on a card nailed to the door in a dark 
passage the name which radiates so many mem- 
ories of enthusiasm and glory: Verdi. 

He opened the door himself. I stood non- 
plussed. His sincerity, graciousness and the no- 
bility which his tall stature gave his whole per- 
son soon drew us together. 

I passed unutterably charming moments in his 
presence, as we talked with the most delightful 
simplicity in his bedroom and then on the terrace 
of his sitting room from which we looked over the 
port of Genoa and beyond on the deep sea as far 
as the eye could reach. I had the illusion that 



he was one of the Dorias proudly showing me his 
victorious fleets. 

As I was leaving, I was drawn to remark that 
"now I had visited him, I was in Italy." 

As I was about to pick up the valise I had left 
in a dark corner of the large reception room, 
where I had noticed tall gilt chairs which were in 
the Italian taste of the Eighteenth Century, I told 
him that it contained manuscripts which never 
left me on my travels. Verdi seized my luggage, 
briskly, and said he did exactly as I did, for he 
never wanted to be parted from his work on a 

How much I would have preferred to have had 
his music in my valise instead of my own ! The 
master even accompanied me across the garden 
of his lordly dwelling to my carriage. 

When I got back to Paris in February, I 
learned with the keenest emotion that my master 
Ambroise Thomas was dangerously ill. 

Although far from well he had dared the cold 
to attend a festival at the Opera where they had 
played the whole of that terrible, superb prelude 
to Frangoise de Rimini. 



They encored the prelude and applauded Am- 
broise Thomas. 

My master was the more moved by this recep- 
tion, as he had not forgotten how cruelly severe 
they had shown themselves toward this fine work 
at the Opera. 

He went from the theater to the apartment he 
occupied at the Conservatoire and went to bed. 
He never got up again. 

The sky was clear and cloudless that day, and 
the sun shone with its softest brilliance in my 
venerated master's room and caressed the cur- 
tains of his bed of pain. The last words he said 
were a salutation to gladsome nature which 
smiled upon him for the last time. "To die in 
weather so beautiful," he said, and that was all. 

He laid in state in the columned vestibule of 
which I have spoken, at the foot of the great stair- 
case leading to the president's loge which he had 
honored with his presence for twenty-five years. 

The third day after his death, I delivered his 
funeral oration in the name of the Societe des 
Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques. I began 
as follows. 

"It is said that a king of France in the pres- 
ence of the body of a powerful seigneur of his 



court could not help saying, 'How tall he was!' 
So he who rests here before us seemed tall to us, 
being of those whose height is only realized after 

"To see him pass in life so simple and calm, in 
his dream of art, who of us, accustomed to feel 
him kindly and forbearing always at our sides, 
has seen that he was so tall that we had to raise 
our eyes to look him fairly in the face." 

Here my eyes filled with tears and my voice 
seemed to die away strangled with emotion. 
Nevertheless I contained myself, mastered my 
grief, and continued my discourse. I knew that 
I should have time enough for weeping. 

It was very painful to me on that occasion to 
see the envious looks of those who already saw in 
me my master's successor at the Conservatoire. 
And as a matter of fact, this is exactly what hap- 
pened, for a little afterwards I was summoned to 
the Ministry of Public Instruction. At the time 
the Minister was my confrere at the Institute, 
Rambaud the eminent historian, and at the head 
of the Beaux- Arts as director was Henri Roujon, 
since a member of the Academic des Beaux- Arts 
and the permanent secretary. 

The directorship of the Conservatoire was of- 


fered me. I declined the honor as I did not want 
to interrupt my life at the theater which took my 
whole time. 

In 1905 the directorship was offered me again, 
but I refused for the same reason. 

Naturally, I tendered my resignation as profes- 
sor of composition at the Conservatoire. I had 
only accepted and held the situation because it 
brought me in touch with my Director whom I 
loved so much. 

Free at last and loosed from my chains for- 
ever, during the first days of summer my wife 
and I started for the mountains of Auvergne. 



At the beginning of the preceding winter, 
Henri Cain proposed to Henri Heugel a text for 
an opera based on Alphonse Daudet's famous ro- 
mance Sapho. He went to Heugel in order that 
I might the more certainly accept it, for he knew 
the influence my publisher had with me. 

I had gone to the mountains with a light heart. 
There was to be no directing the Conservatoire 
and no more classes ; I felt twenty years younger. 
I wrote Sapho with an enthusiasm I had rarely 
felt up to that time. 

We lived in a villa, and I felt far removed from 
everything, the noise, the tumult, the incessant 
movement and feverish activity of the city. We 
went for walks and excursions through the beau- 
tiful country which has been praised so much for 
the variety of its scenery, but which was still too 
much unknown. The only accompaniment of 
our thoughts was the murmur of the waters which 
flowed along the roadside ; their freshness rose up 
to us, and often it was from a bubbling spring 



which broke the quiet of luxuriant nature. 
Eagles, too, came down from their steep rocks, 
"Thunder's abode," as Lamartine said, and sur- 
prised us by their bold flights as they made the 
air echo with their shrill, piercing cries. 

Even while I journeyed, my mind was work- 
ing and on my return the pages accumulated. 

I became enamored with this work and I re- 
joiced in advance at letting Alphonse Daudet 
hear it, for he was a very dear friend whom I had 
known when we were both young. 

If I insist somewhat of speaking of that time, 
it is because four works above all others in my 
long career gave me such joy in the doing that I 
freely describe it as exquisite : Marie Magdeleine, 
WertheT, Sapho, and Therese. 

At the beginning of September of that year an 
amusing incident happened. The Emperor of 
Russia came to Paris. The entire population 
this is no exaggeration was out of doors to see 
the procession pass through the avenues and 
boulevards. The people drawn by curiosity had 
come from everywhere ; the estimate of a million 
people does not seem exaggerated. 

We did what everyone else did, and our serv- 
ants went at the same time; our apartment was 



empty. We were at the house of friends at a win- 
dow overlooking the Pare Monceau. The pro- 
cession had scarcely passed when we were sud- 
denly seized with anxiety at the idea that the time 
was particularly propitious for burglarizing de- 
serted apartments and we rushed home. 

When we reached our threshold whispers were 
coming from inside, which put us in a lively flut- 
ter. We knew our servants were out. It had 
happened ! Burglars had broken in ! 

We were shocked at the idea, but we went 
in ... and saw in the salon Emma Calve and 
Henri Cain who were waiting for us and talking 
together in the meantime. We were struck in a 
heap. Tableau ! We all burst out laughing at 
this curious adventure. Our servants had come 
back before we had, and naturally opened the 
door for our friendly callers who had so thor- 
oughly frightened us for a moment. Oh power 
of imagination, how manifold are thy fantastic 
creations ! 

Carvalho had already prepared the model of 
the scenery and the costumes for Cendrillon, 
when he learned that Emma Calve was in Paris 
and put on Sapho. In addition to the admir- 



able protagonist of La Navarraise in London and 
in Paris, our interpreters were the charming ar- 
tiste Mile. Julia Guiraudon (later the wife of my 
collaborator Henri Cain) and M. Lepreste who 
has since died. 

I have spoken of the extreme joy I experienced 
in writing Sapho, an opera in five acts. Henri 
Cain and dear Arthur Bernede had ably con- 
trived the libretto. 

Never before had the rehearsals of a work 
seemed more enrapturing. The task was both 
easy and agreeable with such excellent artists. 

While the rehearsals were going on so well, my 
wife and I went to dine one evening at Alphonse 
Daudet's. He was very fond of us. The first 
proofs had been laid on the piano. I can still 
see Daudet seated on a cushion and almost brush- 
ing the keyboard with his handsome head so de- 
lightfully framed in his beautiful thick hair. It 
seemed to me that he was deeply moved. The 
vagueness of his short sightedness made his eyes 
still more admirable. His soul with all its pure, 
tender poetry spoke through them. 

It would be difficult to experience again such 
moments as my wife and I knew then. 

As they were about to begin the first rehearsals 


of Sapho, Danbe, who had been my friend since 
childhood, told the musicians in the orchestra 
what an emotional work they were to play. 

Finally, the first performance came on Novem- 
ber 27, 1897. 

The evening must have been very fine, for the 
next day the first mail brought me the following 

My dear Massenet: 

I am happy at your great success. With Mas- 
senet and Bizet, non omnis moriar. 
Tenderly yours, 


I learned that my beloved friend and famous 
collaborator had been present at the first per- 
formance, at the back of a box, although he had 
stopped going out save on rare occasions. 

His appearance at the performance touched 
me all the more. 

One evening I decided to go to the playhouse, 
in the wings, and I was shocked at Carvalho's ap- 
pearance. He was always so alert and carried 
himself so well, but now he was bent and his eyes 
were bloodshot behind his blue glasses. Never- 
theless his good humor and gentleness toward me 
were the same as ever. 



His condition could but cause me anxiety. 

How true my sad presentiments were ! 

My poor director was to die on the third day. 

Almost at the same time I learned that Daudet, 
whose life had been so admirably rounded out, 
had heard his last hour strike on the clock of 
time. Oh mysterious, implacable Timepiece! 
I felt one of its sharpest strokes. 

Carvalho's funeral was followed by a consider- 
able crowd. His son burst into sobs behind his 
funeral car and could scarcely see. Everything 
in that sad, impressive procession was painful 
and heartrending. 

Daudet's obsequies were celebrated with great 
pomp at Sainte Clotilde. La Solitude from 
Sapho (the entr'acte from the fifth act) was 
played during the service after the chanting of 
the Dies Irae. 

I was obliged to make my way almost by main 
force through the great crowd to get into the 
church. It was like a hungry, eager reflection 
of that long line of admirers and friends he had 
during his lifetime. 

As I sprinkled holy water on the casket, I re- 
called my last visit to the Rue de Bellechasse 
where Daudet lived. I had gone to give him 



news of the theater and carried him sprays of 
eucalyptus, one of the trees of the South he 
adored. I knew what intense pleasure that 
would give him. 

Meanwhile Sapho went on its way. I went to 
Saint Raphael, the country where Carvalho had 
liked to live. 

I relied on an apartment which I had engaged 
in advance, but the landlord told me that he had 
let it to two ladies who seemed very busy. I 
started to hunt another lodging when I was called 
back. I learned that the two who had taken my 
rooms were Emma Calve and one of her friends. 
The two ladies doubtless heard my name men- 
tioned and changed their itinerary. However, 
their presence in that place so far from Paris 
showed me that our Sapho had necessarily sus- 
pended her run of performances. 

What whims will not one pardon in such an 

I learned that in two days everything was in 
order again at the theater in Paris. Would that 
I had been there to embrace our adorable fugi- 

Two weeks later I learned from the papers in 


Nice that Albert Carre had been made manager of 
the Opera-Comique. Until then the house had 
been temporarily under the direction of the 

Who would have thought that it would have 
been our new manager who would revive Sapho 
considerably later with that beautiful artiste who 
became his wife. But it was she who incarnated 
the Sapho of Daudet with an unusually appealing 

Salignac, the tenor, had a considerable success 
in the role of Jean Gaussin. 

At the revival Carre asked me to interweave a 
new act, the act of the Letters, and I carried out 
the idea with enthusiasm. 

Sapho was also sung by that unusual artiste 
Mme. Georgette Leblanc, later the wife of that 
great man of letters Maeterlinck. 

Mme. Brejean-Silver also made this role an 
astonishingly lifelike figure. 

How many other artists have sung this work! 

The first opera put on under the new manage- 
ment was Reynaldo Hahn's Ulle de Reve. He 
dedicated that exquisite score to me. That mu- 
sic is pervading for it was written by a real mas- 



ter. What a gift he has of wrapping us in warm 
caresses ! 

That was not the case with the music of some 
of our confreres. Reyer found it unbearable 
and made this image-raising remark about it: 

"I just met Gretry's statue on the stairs; he 
had enough and fled." 

That brings to mind another equally witty 
sally which du Locle made to Reyer the day after 
Berlioz's death, 

"Well, my dear fellow, Berlioz has got ahead 
of you." 

Du Locle could permit himself this inoffensive 
joke for he was Reyer's oldest friend. 

I find this word from the author of Louise 
whom I knew as a child in my classes at the Con- 
servatoire and who always felt a family affection 

Midnight, New Year's Eve. 
Dear Master: 

Faithful remembrance from your affectionate 
on the last day which ends with Sapho and the 
first hour of the year which will close with Cen- 



Cendrillon did not appear until May 24, 1899. 
These works presented one after another, at more 
than a year's interval however, brought me the 
following note from Gounod: 

"A thousand congratulations, my dear friend, 
on your latest fine success. The devil! Well, 
you go at such a pace one can scarcely keep up 
with you." 

As I have said, the score of Cendrillon, written 
on a pearl from that casket of jewels "Les Contes 
de Perrault," had been finished a long time. It 
had yielded its turn to Sapho at the Opera-Com- 
ique. Our new director Albert Carre told me 
that he intended to give Cendrillon at the first 
possible chance, but that was six months away. 

I was staying at Aix-les-Bains in remembrance 
of my father who had lived there, and I was deep 
in work on La Terre Promise. The Bible fur- 
nished a text and I got out an oratorio of three 
acts. As I said, I was deep in the work when my 
wife and I were overcome by the terrible news of 
the fire at the Charity Bazaar. My dear daugh- 
ter was a salesgirl. 

We had to wait until evening before a tele- 
gram arrived and ended our intense alarm. 

^ curious coincidence which I did not learn 


until long afterwards was that the heroine (Lucy 
Arbell) of Persephone and Therese, as well as 
the beautiful Dulcinee (in Don Quichotte) was 
also among the salesgirls. She was only twelve 
or thirteen at the time, but in the midst of the 
general panic she found an exit behind the Hotel 
du Palais and succeeded in saving her mother and 
several others. This showed rare decision and 
courage for a child. 

Since I have spoken of La Terre Promise, I 
may add that I had an entirely unexpected "hear- 
ing." Eugene d'Harcourt, who was so well 
thought of as a musician and a critic, the greatly 
applauded composer of Tasse which was put on 
at Monte Carlo, proposed to me that he direct a 
performance at the church of Sainte Eustache 
with an immense orchestra and chorus. 

The second part was devoted to the taking of 
Jericho. A march seven times interrupted by 
the resounding outbursts from seven great trum- 
pets ended with the collapse of the walls of that 
famous city which the Jews had to take and de- 
stroy. The resounding clamor of all the voices 
together was joined to the formidable thunder 
of the great organ of Saint Eustache. 

With my wife I attended the final rehearsal 


in a large pulpit to which the venerable cure had 
done us the honor of inviting us. 

That was the fifteenth of March, 1900. 

I return to Cendrillon. Albert Carre put on 
this opera with a stage setting which was as novel 
as it was marvellous. 

Julia Guiraudon was exquisite in the role of 
Cendrillon. Mme. Deschamps Jehin was aston- 
ishing as a singer and as a comedienne, pretty 
Mile. Emelen was our Prince Charming and the 
great Fugere showed himself an indescribable ar- 
tist in the role of Pandolphe. He sent me the 
news of "victory" which I received the next 
morning at Enghien-les-Bains, which with my 
wife I had chosen as a refuge near Paris from the 
dress rehearsal and the first performance. 

More than sixty continuous performances, in- 
cluding matinees, followed the Premiere. The 
Isola brothers, managers of the Gaite, later gave a 
large number of performances, and a curious 
thing for so Parisian a work was that Italy gave 
Cendrillon a fine reception. This lyric work was 
given at Rome thirty times a rare number. 
The following cablegram came to me from Amer- 



Cendrillon hier, success menal. 
The last word was too long and the sending 
office had cut it in two. 

It was now 1900, the memorable time of the 
Great Exposition. 

I had scarcely recovered from the fine emotion 
of La Terre Promise at Saint Eustache than I fell 
seriously ill. They were then going on with the 
rehearsals of Le Cid at the Opera which they in- 
tended to revive. The hundredth performance 
was reached in October of the same year. 

All Paris was en fete. The capital, one of the 
most frequented places in the world, became even 
more and better than that: it was the world itself, 
for all people met there. All nations jostled one 
another; all tongues were heard and all costumes 
were set off against each other. 

Though the Exposition sent its million of joy- 
ful notes skyward and could not fail to obtain a 
place of honor in history, at nightfall the im- 
mense crowd sought rest from the emotions of the 
day by swarming to the theaters which were 
everywhere open, and it invaded the magnificent 
palace which our dear great Charles Gamier had 



raised for the manifestations of Lyric Art and the 
religion of the Dance. 

Gailhard had come to call on me in May when 
I was so ill and had made me promise to be pres- 
ent in his box at the hundredth performance 
which he more than hoped to give and which as a 
matter of fact took place in October. That day 
I yielded to his invitation. 

Mile. Lucienne Breval and Mm. Saleza and 
Frederic Delmas were applauded with delirious 
enthusiasm on the night of the hundredth per- 
formance. At the recall at the end of the third 
act, Gailhard, in spite of my resistance, pushed 
me to the front of his box. . . . 

It is easy to imagine what happened on the 
stage, in the Opera's superb orchestra, and in the 
audience packed to the roof. 




I became very ill at Paris. I felt that the 
path from life to death was so easy, the way 
seemed so gentle, so restful, that I was sorry to 
find myself back in the harsh, cutting troubles 
of life. 

I had escaped the sharp cold of winter; it was 
now spring, and I went to my old home at gre- 
ville to find nature, the great consoler, in her soli- 
tude and peace. 

I brought with me a voluminous correspond- 
ence, letters, pamphlets and rolls of manuscript 
which I had never opened. I intended doing so 
on the way as a distraction from the boredom of 
the journey. I had opened several letters and 
was about to unroll a manuscript, "Oh, no," I 
said, "that's enough." As a matter of fact I 
had happened on a work for the stage. 

Must the stage follow me everywhere, I 
thought. I longed to have nothing more to do 
with it. So I put the importunate thing aside. 
Yet as I journeyed along, to kill time, as they say, 



y~\v v-v 

/" PN^ 



I took it up again and settled myself to run 
through that famous manuscript notwithstanding 
whatever desire I may have had to the contrary. 

My attention was at first superficial and inat- 
tentive, but gradually it became fixed. Insen- 
sibly I began to read with interest; so much so 
that I ended by feeling real surprise I must con- 
fess that it even became stupefaction. 

"What," I exclaimed, "a play without a part 
for a woman except for the speechless apparition 
of the Virgin!" 

If I was surprised and stupefied, what would be 
the feelings of those who were used to seeing me 
put on the stage Manon, Sapho, Thai's and other 
lovable ladies. That was true, but in that they 
would forget that the most sublime of women, 
the Virgin, was bound to sustain me in my work, 
even as she showed herself charitable to the re- 
pentant Juggler. 

I had scarcely run through the first scenes, 
when I felt that I was face to face with the work 
of a true poet who was familiar with the archaism 
of the literature of the Middle Ages. The manu- 
script bore no author's name. 

I wrote to my concierge to find out the origin 
of this mysterious package, and he told me that 



the author had left his name and address with 
explicit instructions not to divulge them to me 
unless and until I had agreed to write the music 
for the work. 

The title Le Jongleur de Notre Dame followed 
by the sub-title "Miracle in Three Acts" en- 
chanted me. 

The character of my home, a relic of the same 
Middle Ages, the surroundings in which I found 
myself at figreville, were exactly suited to give 
me the desired atmosphere for my work. 

The score was finished and the time came to 
communicate with my unknown. 

At last I learned his name and address and 
wrote to him. 

There is no doubt about the joy with which I 
did so, for the author was none other than Maur- 
ice Lena, the devoted friend I had known at Lyons 
where he held the chair of Philosophy. 

My dear Lena then came to figreville on 
August 14, 1900. We hurried to my place from 
the little station. We found in my room spread 
out on the large table (I flatter myself it was a 
famous table for it had belonged to the illustrious 
Diderot) the engraved piano and vocal score for 
Le Jongleur de Notre Dame. 



Lena was dumfounded at sight of it. He was 
choked by the most delightful of emotions. 

Both of us had been happy in the work. Now 
the unknown faced us. Where and in what thea- 
ter were we to be played? 

It was a radiant day. Nature with her intox- 
icating odors, the fair season of the fields, the 
flowers in the meadows, the agreeable union 
which had grown up between us in producing the 
work, everything in fact spoke of happiness. 
Such fleeting happiness, as the poetess Mme. 
Daniel Lesaeur has told us, is worth all eternity. 

The fields recalled to us that we were on the 
eve of the fifteenth of August, the Feast of the 
Virgin, whom we had sung in our work. 

As I never had a piano at home, especially at 
figreville, I was unable to satisfy my dear Lena's 
curiosity and let him hear the music of this or 
that scene. 

We were strolling together near the hour of 
vespers towards the old, venerable church, and 
we could hear from a distance the chords of its 
little harmonium. A mad idea struck me. 
"Hey! What if I should suggest to you," I said 
to my friend, "what if I propose to you something 
which would be impossible in that sacred place 



in any other way, but certainly very tempting! 
Suppose we go into the church as soon as it is 
deserted and returned to holy obscurity. What 
if I should let you hear fragments of our Le Jon- 
gleur de Notre Dame? Wouldn't it be a divine 
moment which would leave its impression on us 
forever?" And we continued our stroll, the 
complacent shade of the great trees protecting 
the paths and roads from the sting of a too ardent 

On the morrow sad morrow we parted. 

The following autumn, the winter, and finally 
the spring of the succeeding year passed without 
any one coming to me from anywhere with an 
offer to produce the work. 

When I least thought of it, I had a visit as 
unexpected as it was flattering from M. Raoul 

I delight in recalling here the great worth of 
that close friend, his individuality as a manager, 
and his talent as a musician, whose works tri- 
umph on the stage. 

Raoul Gunsbourg brought me the news that on 
his advice H. S. H. the Prince of Monaco had des- 
ignated me for a work to be put on the stage of 
the theater at Monte Carlo. 



Le Jongleur de Notre Dame was ready and I 
offered it. It was arranged that his Serene High- 
ness should deign to come to Paris and hear the 
work in person. That hearing occurred, as a 
matter of fact, in the beautiful, artistic home 
of my publisher Henri Heugel. The Prince was 
entirely satisfied ; he did me the honor to express 
several times his sincere pleasure. The work 
was put in study and the later rehearsals were in 
Paris under Raoul Gunsbourg's direction. 

In January, 1902, my wife and I left Paris for 
the Palace of Monaco, where his Serene High- 
ness had most cordially invited us to be his 
guests. What a contrast it was to the life we 
had left behind! 

One evening we left Paris buried in glacial 
cold beneath the snow, and, behold, some hours 
later we found ourselves in an entirely different 
atmosphere. It was the South, La Belle Prov- 
ence, the Azure Coast. It was ideal! For me 
it was the East almost at the gates of Paris ! 

The dream began. It is hardly necessary for 
me to tell of all the marvelous days which went 
like a dream in that Dantesque Paradise, amid 
that splendid scenery, in that luxurious, sumptu- 



ous palace, all balmy with the vegetation of the 

The first performance of Le Jongleur de Notre 
Dame was given at the Monte Carlo Opera on 
Tuesday, February 18, 1902. The superb pro- 
tagonists were Mm. Renaud, of the Opera, and 
Marechal, of the Opera-Comique. 

A detail which shows the favor with which the 
work was received is that it was given four times 
in succession during the same season. 

Two years later my dear director Albert Carre 
gave the first performance of Le Jongleur de No- 
tre Dame at the Opera-Comique with this ideal 
cast: Lucien Fugere, Marechal, the creator of the 
part, and Allard. 

The work long ago passed its hundredth per- 
formance at Paris, and as I write these lines Le 
Jongleur de Notre Dame has had a place in the 
repertoire of the American houses for several 

It is interesting to note that the Juggler wa 
created at the Metropolitan Opera House by 
Mary Garden, the dazzling artist who is admired 
as much in Paris as in the United States. 

My feelings are somewhat bewildered, I con- 


fess, at seeing the monk discard his frock after 
the performance and resume an elegant costume 
from the Rue de la Paix. However, in the face 
of the artist's triumph I bow and applaud. 1 

As I have said, this work had to wait its turn, 
and as Carvalho had previously engaged me to 
write the music for Griseldis, a work by Eugene 
Morand and Armand Silvestre, which was much 
applauded at the Theatre-Frangais. I wrote the 
score at intervals between my journeys to the 
South and to Cap d'Antibes. Ah, that hotel on 
the Cap d'Antibes ! That was an unusual stay. 
It was an old property built by Villemessant, who 
had christened it correctly and happily "Villa 
Soliel," and which he planned for journalists 
overtaken by poverty and old age. 

Imagine, if you can, a large villa with white 

1 The transposition of the tenor part to the soprano 
register seems an intolerable musical solecism, and a 
woman playing a serious and inevitably male character 
grotesquely absurd. The terms in which Massenet here 
expresses his objections to this indefensible procedure are 
gentle and but mildly ironical compared with those he 
used to the translator. Massenet was simply furious. 
With flaming eyes and how his wonderful eyes could 
flame! and voice vehement with indignation and unutter- 
able scorn, he said to me, "When I wrote that work I little 
thought the monk's habit would ever be disguised in a petti- 

>at from the Rue de la Paix." 



walls all purple from the fires of the bright sun 
of the South and surrounded by a grove of euca- 
lyptus trees, myrtles and laurels. It was reached 
by shady paths, suffused with the most fragrant 
perfumes, and faced the sea that sea which rolls 
its clear waters from the Azure Coast and the 
Riviera along the indented shores of Italy as far 
as ancient Hellas, as if to carry thither on its 
azured waves which bathe Provence the far off 
salutation of the Phocean city. 

How pleased I was with my sun-flooded room, 
where I worked in peace and quiet and in the en- 
joyment of perfect health ! 

As I have spoken of Griseldis., I will add that 
as I had two works free, that and Le Jongleur de 
Notre Dame., my publisher offered Albert Carre 
his choice and he took Griseldis. That is why, 
as I have said, Le Jongleur de Notre Dame was 
put on at Monte Carlo in 1902. 

So Griseldis got the first start and was given at 
the Opera-Comique November 20, 1901. 

Mile. Lucienne Breval made a superb creation 
of it. The baritone, Dufranne, made his first 
appearance in the role of the marquis, Griseldis's 
husband, and made a brilliant success from the 
moment he came on the stage; Fugere was ex- 



traordinary in the role of the Devil, and Marechal 
was a tender lover in the part of Alain. 

I was very fond of this piece. Everything 
about it pleased me. 

It brought together so many touching senti- 
ments: the proud chivalric appearance of the 
great, powerful seigneur going on the Crusades, 
the fantastic appearance of the Green Devil who 
might be said to have come from a window of 
a medieval cathedral, the simplicity of young 
Alain, and the delightful little figure of the child 
of Griseldis! For that part we had a tiny girl 
of three who was the very spirit of the theater. 
As in the second act the child on Griseldis's knees 
should give the illusion of falling asleep, the little 
artiste discovered all by herself the proper ges- 
ture which would be understood by the distant 
audience; she let her arms fall as if overcome 
with weariness. Delightful little mummer! 

Albert Carre had found an archaic and his- 
toric oratory which was artistically perfect, and 
when the curtain rose on Griseldis's garden, it 
was a delight. What a contrast between the 
lilies blooming in the foreground and the dismal 
castle on the horizon ! 



And the scene of the prologue with its living 
background was a fortunate discovery. 

What joys I promised myself in being able to 
work at the theater with my old friend Armand 
Silvestre. A year before he had written me, 
"Are you going to let me die without seeing Gris- 
eldis at the Opera-Comique?" Alas, that was 
the case, and my dear collaborator, Eugene 
Morland, helped with his poetical and artistic 

As I was working on Griseldis, a scholar who 
was entirely wrapped up in the literature of the 
Middle Ages and was interested in a subject on 
that period, entrusted me with a work which he 
had written on that time, a very labored work of 
which I was not able to make much use. 

I had shown it to Gerome, whose mind was 
curious about everything, and as Gerome, the 
author and I were together, our great painter 
whose remarks were always so apropos, ready 
and amusing said to the author who was waiting 
for his opinion, "How pleasantly I fell asleep 
reading your book yesterday." 

And the author bowed entirely satisfied. 




I happened to see played at the Theatre-Fran- 
ais three entirely novel acts which interested me 
very much. It was Le Cherubin by Francis de 
Croisset. Two days later I was at the author's 
house and asked him for the work. His talent, 
which was so marked then, has never ceased 
highly to confirm itself. 

I remember that it was a rainy day, as we were 
coming back by the Champs filysees from the 
glorious ceremony at the unveiling of the statue 
of Alphonse Daudet, that we settled the terms of 
our agreement. 

Title, subject, action, everything in that de- 
lightful Cherubin charmed me. I wrote the mu- 
sic at figreville. 

His Serene Highness the Prince of Monaco 
heard that Le Cherubin was set to music, and he 
remembered Le Jongleur de Notre Dame which 
he had welcomed so splendidly and which I had 
respectfully dedicated to him. He had M. Raoul 



Gunsbourg propose to me that the first perform- 
ance be given at Monte Carlo. It is not difficult 
to imagine with what enthusiasm I accepted this 
offer. Mme. Massenet and I went again to that 
ideal country in that fairy-like palace of which 
we have retained such imperishable memories. 

Le Cherubin was created by Mary Garden, the 
tender Nina by Marguerite Carre, the bewitching 
Ensoleillad by Cavalieri, and the part of the 
philosopher was filled by Maurice Renaud. 

It was a really delightful interpretation. The 
evening was much drawn out by the applause and 
the constant encores which the audience de- 
manded of the artists. It literally held them in 
an atmosphere of the wildest enthusiasm. 

Our stay at the palace was one continual series 
of inexpressible delights which we were to ex- 
perience again as the guests of that high-souled 
prince of science. 

Henri Cain, who had been my collaborator 
with Francis de Croisset in Le Cherubin, amused 
me between times by making me write the music 
for a pretty, picturesque ballet in one act, Cigale. 
The Opera-Comique gave it February 4, 1904. 
The bewitching, talented Mile. Chasle was our 
Cigale, and Messmaecker, of the Opera-Comique, 



clowned the role of Mme. Fourmi, Rentiere, in 
a mirth provoking manner ! 

I was by far the most entertained of those 
who attended the rehearsals of Cigale. At the 
end was a scene which was very touching and 
exquisitely poetical, where an angel with a divine 
voice appears and sings in the distance. The 
angel's voice was Mile. Guiraudon who became 
Mme. Henri Cain. 

A year later, as I have said, on February 14, 
1905, Le Cherubin was sung at Monte Carlo and 
on the twenty-third of the following May the 
Opera-Comique in Paris closed its season with 
the same piece. The only changes at the latter 
were that Lucien Fugere took the role of the 
philosopher and added a new success to the many 
that artist had already achieved and that the role 
of Ensoleillad was given to the charming Mile. 

You will perhaps observe that I have said noth- 
ing about Ariane. The reason for this is that I 
never talk about a work until it is finished and 
engraved. I have said nothing about Ariane or 
about Roma, the first scenes of which I wrote in 


Persephone in Ariane 


1902, enraptured by the sublime tragedy, Rome 
Vaincue by Alexandre Parodi. As I write these 
words the five acts of Roma are in rehearsal at 
Monte Carlo and the Opera, but I have already 
said too much. 

So I resume the current of my life. 

Ariane! Arianel The work which made me 
live in such lofty spheres! How could it have 
been otherwise with the superb, inspired collabo- 
ration of Catulle Mendes, the poet of ethereal 
hopes and dreams! 

It was a memorable day in my life when my 
friend Heugel told me that Catulle Mendes was 
ready to read the text of Ariane to me. 

For a long time I had wanted to weep the tears 
of Ariane. I was thrilled with all the strength 
of mind and heart before I even knew the first 
word of the first scene. 

We engaged to meet for this reading at Catulle 
Mendes's house, in the artistic lodging of that 
great scholar and his exquisite wife who was also 
a most talented and real poet. 

I came away actually feverish with excitement. 
The libretto was in my pocket, against my heart, 
as if to make it feel the throbs, as I got into a 



victoria to go home. Rain fell in torrents but 
I did not notice it. Surely Ariane's tears per- 
meated my whole being with delight. 

Dear, good tears, with what gladness you must 
have fallen during the rehearsals! I was over- 
whelmed with esteem and attention by my dear 
director, Gailhard, as well as by my remarkable 

In August, 1905, 1 was walking pensively un- 
der the pergola of our house at figreville, when 
suddenly an automobile horn woke the echoes of 
that peaceful country. 

Was not Jupiter thundering in the heavens, 
Caelo tonantem Jovem, as Horace says in the 
Odes. For a moment I could believe that such 
was the case, but what was my surprise my very 
agreeable surprise when I saw get down from 
that thundering sixty miles an hour two travel- 
ers, who, if they did not come from heaven, 
nevertheless let me hear the accents of Paradise 
in their friendly voices. 

One was Gailhard, the director of the Opera, 
and the other the learned architect of the Gamier 
monument. My director had come to ask me 
how I was getting on with Ariane and if I were 
willing to let the Opera have it. 



We went up to my large room which with its 
yellow hangings of the period might have easily 
been taken for that of a general of the First Em- 
pire. I at once pointed out a heap of pages on a 
large black marble table the whole of the fin- 
ished score. 

At lunch, between the sardines of the hors 
d'oeuvre and the cheese of the dessert, I de- 
claimed several situations in the work. Then 
my guests, put in a charming humor, were good 
enough to accept my invitation to make a tour of 
the property. 

It was while we paced under the pergola of 
which I have spoken, in the delightfully fresh, 
thick shade of the vines whose leaves formed a 
verdant network that we settled on the cast. 

Lucienne Breval was to have the role of Ari- 
ane; Louise Grandjean that of the dramatic 
Phedre, and by common consent, in view of her 
talent for tragedy and her established success at 
the Opera, we decided on Lucy Arbell for the role 
of the somber, beautiful Queen of Hell. 

Muratore and Delmas were plainly indicated 
for Thesee and Pirithoiis. 

As he was going away, Gailhard, remembering 
the simple, confiding formula by which our 



fathers made contracts in the good old days, 
plucked a branch from a eucalyptus in the gar- 
den and said, waving it at me: 

"This is the token of the promises we have 
exchanged to-day. I carry it with me." 

Then my guests got into their auto and dis- 
appeared in the whirling dust of the road. Did 
they carry away to the great city the near realiza- 
tion of my dearest hopes, was what I asked myself 
as I climbed to my room. I was tired and worn 
out by the emotions of the day and I went to bed. 
The sun still shone on the horizon in all the 
glory of its fire. It crimsoned my bed with its 
dazzling rays. I dreamt as I slept the most beau- 
tiful dream that can delude us when a task has 
been fulfilled. 

I now record a detail which is of some im- 

My little Marie Magdeleine came to figreville 
to spend a few days with her grandparents. I 
yielded to her curiosity and told her the story of 
the piece. I had reached the place where Ariane 
is drawn into Hell to find the wandering soul of 
her sister Phedre, and as I stopped, my grand- 
child exclaimed at once : 



"And now grandpapa we are going to be in 

The silvery wheedling voice of the dear child, 
her sudden, natural question produced a strange, 
almost magical, effect on me. I had had the in- 
tention of asking them to suppress that act, but 
now I suddenly decided to keep it, and I answered 
the child's fair question, "Yes, we are going into 
Hell." And I added, "We shall see there the 
affecting figure of Persephone finding again with 
delight the roses, the divine roses which remind 
her of the beloved earth where she lived of old, 
ere she became the Queen of that terrible place 
with a black lily in her hand for a scepter." 

That visit to Avernus necessitates a stage set- 
ting and an interpretation which I will deliber- 
ately designate as intensive. I had to go to 
Turin (my last journey to that beautiful country) 
in pretty cold weather, December 14, 1907, ac- 
companied by my dear Henri Heugel to be pres- 
ent at the last rehearsals at the Regio, the royal 
theater, where they were putting on Ariane for 
the first time in Italy. The work had a luxuri- 
ous stage setting and remarkable interpreters. 
The great artiste Maria Farneti had the role of 
Ariane. I noticed particularly the special care 



with which Serafin, the eminent conductor who 
was acting as stage manager, staged the act in 
Hell. Our Persephone was as tragic as one pos- 
sibly could be; the aria of the Roses, however, 
seemed to me to be lacking in emotion. I re- 
member that I told her at the rehearsal, throwing 
an armful of roses into her wide open arms, to 
press them to her heart ardently, as she would 
do, I added, with a husband or a beloved sweet- 
heart whom she had not seen for twenty years! 
"From the roses which disappeared so long ago 
to the dear adored one who is at last found again 
is not so far ! Think of that, Signorina, and the 
effect will be sure!" The charming artiste 
smiled, but had she understood? 

So Ariane was finished. My illustrious 
friend, Jules Claretie, learned of this and recalled 
to me the promise I had made him of writing 
Therese, a lyric drama in three acts. He added: 

"The work will be short, for the emotion it lets 
loose cannot be prolonged." 

I went to work on it, but I will deal with that 

I have alluded to the pleasure I felt at every 
rehearsal at the constant happy discoveries in 
scenery or in feeling. Ah, with what constantly 



alert and devoted intelligence our artists followed 
the precious advice of Gailhard ! 

The month of June was, however, marked by 
dark days. One of our artistes fell seriously ill 
and they fought with death for thirty-six hours in 
order to save her. The work was all ready for 
the stage and as that artiste was necessarily miss- 
ing for several weeks, they suspended the re- 
hearsals during the summer. They were re- 
sumed at the end of September when our artists 
were all well and together again. These re- 
hearsals were in a general way to go on during 
the month of October and we were to appear at 
the end of the month. 

What was said was done; rare promptness for 
the stage. The first performance was on Oc- 
tober 31, 1906. 

Catulle Mendes, who had often been severe on 
me in his criticisms in the press, had become my 
ardent collaborator, and, something worth not- 
ing, he appreciated joyfully the reverence I had 
brought to the delivery of his verses. 

In our common toil, as well as in our studies 
with the artists at the playhouse, I delighted in 
his outbursts of devotion and affection and in the 
esteem in which he held me. 



The performances followed each other ten 
times a month, a unique fact in the annals of the 
theater for a new work, and this went on up to 
the sixtieth performance. 

Apropos of this, they asked Lucy Arbell, our 
Persephone, how many times she had sung the 
work, feeling sure that her answer would be 

"Why," she exclaimed, "sixty times!" 

"No," replied her questioner, "you have sung 
it one hundred and twenty times, for you are al- 
ways encored in the aria of the Roses." 

I owed that sixtieth performance to the new 
directors, Mm. Messager and Broussan, and that 
seems to be the last of a work which started off so 

What a difference, I say again, between the 
manner in which my works have been mounted 
for some years and the way they were put on 
when I was beginning ! 

My first works were put on in the provinces 
with old scenery, and I was compelled to hear the 
stage manager say things like this : 

"For the first act we have found an old back- 
ground from La Favorita; for the second two sets 
from Rigoletto," etc., etc. 



I recall an obliging director who on the eve 
of a first performance, knowing that I lacked a 
tenor, offered me one, but warning me, "This 
artist knows the part, but I ought to tell you that 
he is always flat in the third act." 

Which reminds me that in the same house I 
knew a basso who had a strange pretension, still 
more strangely expressed, "My voice," said our 
basso, "goes down so far that they can't find the 
note on the piano." 

Oh, well, they were all valiant and honest 
artists. They did me service and had their years 
of success. 

But I see that I am loitering on the way in 
telling of these old times. I have to tell of the 
new work which was in rehearsal in Monte Carlo 
I mean Therese. 




One summer morning in 1905 my great frienid, 
Georges Cain, the eminent and eloquent historian 
of Old Paris, got together the beautiful, charm- 
ing Mme. Georges Cain, Mile. Lucy Arbell, of the 
Opera, and a few others to visit what had once 
been the convent of the Carmelites in the Rue de 

We had gone through the cells of the ancient 
cloister, seen the wells into which the blood 
stained horde of Septembrists had thrown the 
bodies of the slaughtered priests, and we had 
come to the gardens which remain so mournfully 
famous for those frightful butcheries. Georges 
Cain stopped in the middle of his recital of these 
dismal events, and pointed out to us a white figure 
wandering alone in the distance. 

"It is the ghost of Lucile Desmoulins," he 
said. Poor Lucile Desmoulins so strong and 
courageous beside her husband on his way to the 
scaffold where she was so soon to follow him! 



It was neither shade nor phantom. The 
white figure was very much alive ! It was Lucy 
Arbell who had heen overcome by deep emotion 
and who had turned away to hide the tears. 

Therese was already revealed. . . . 

A few days afterwards I was lunching at the 
Italian Embassy. At dessert the kindly Com- 
tessa Tornielli told us, with that charming grace 
and delightful eloquence which were so charac- 
teristic of her, the story of the ambassorial pal- 
ace, Rue de Crenelle. 

In 1793 the palace belonged to the Gallifet 
family. Some of the members of that illustrious 
house were guillotined, while others went abroad. 
It was determined to sell the building as the 
property of the people, but this was opposed by 
a servant of firm and decided character. "I am 
the people," he said, "and you shall not take 
from the people what belongs to it. I am in my 
own place here!" 

When one of the surviving Gallifet emigres 
returned to Paris in 1798, his first thought was 
to go and see the family home. He was greatly 
surprised when the faithful servant whose vigor- 
ous speech had prevented its destruction received 
him and said, falling at his master's feet, "Mon- 



seigneur, I have taken care of your property. 
I give it back to you." 

The text of Therese was foretold. That reve- 
lation was its presentiment. 

I had the first vision of the music of the work 
at Brussels in the Bois de la Cambre in Novem- 
ber of that year. 

It was a beautiful afternoon under a dim au- 
tumnal sun. One knew that the beneficent sap 
was slowly running down in the beautiful trees. 
The gay green foliage which had crowned their 
tops had disappeared. One by one at the caprice 
of the wind the leaves fell, dried up, reddened 
and yellowed by the cold, taking in the gold, 
irony of Nature ! its very brilliance, and shadings 
and most varied tints. 

Nothing resembled less the poor sorry trees of 
our Bois de Boulogne. In the mighty spread of 
their branches those magnificent trees remind 
one of those which are so much admired in the 
parks at Windsor and Richmond. I walked on 
the dead leaves, scuffling them with my feet. 
Their rustling pleased me and were a delightful 
accompaniment to my thoughts. 

I was closer to the heart of my work, "in the 
bowels of the subject," for among the four or 



five people with me was the future heroine of 

I searched everywhere, greedily, for all that 
had to do with the horrible period of the Terror, 
in all the engravings which would give me the 
sinister dark story of that epoch, in order to make 
the scenes in the second act as true as possible, 
and I confess that I like it. 

I returned to Paris to my room Rue de Vau- 
girard, and wrote the music of Therese during 
the winter and spring (I finished it in the sum- 
mer at the seashore) . 

I remember that one morning the work on one 
situation demanded the immediate assistance of 
my collaborator, Jules Claretie, and that it un- 
nerved me a good deal. I decided forthwith to 
write to the Minister of Posts, Telegraphs and 
Telephones and ask him to grant me an almost 
impossible thing: to place a telephone in my 
room before four o'clock. 

Naturally the tone of my letter reflected that 
of a deferential petition. 

How could I have hoped for it? When I re- 
turned from my affairs, I found on my mantel a 
pretty telephone apparatus which was quite new. 

The Minister, M. Berard, one of our most dis- 


tinguished men of letters, had felt bound to in- 
terest himself in my capricious wish on the spot. 
He had sent a crew of twenty men with every- 
thing required for a rapid installation. 

Dear, charming minister! I love him the 
more for his kindly word one day. "I was 
happy," he said, "to give you such pleasure, to 
you who have given me so much pleasure at the 
theater with your works." 

Pan pari refertur, yes, it was returning like 
for like, but done with a grace and kindness 
which I appreciated highly. 

Hello! . . . Hello! At the first attempt I 
was very clumsy of course. All the same I man- 
aged to hold a conversation. 

I also learned, another useful kindness, that 
my number would not appear in the Annuaire. 
Consequently nobody could call me up. I was 
the only one who could use the marvellous in- 

I did not wait long to call up Claretie and he 
was much surprised by the call from the Rue 
Vaugirard. I told him my ideas about the diffi- 
cult scene which had brought about the installa- 
tion of the telephone. 

The difficulty was in the final scene. 


I telephoned to him, 

"Cut Therese's throat and it will be all right." 

I heard an unknown voice crying excitedly 
(our wire was crossed) : 

"Oh, if I only knew who you were, you scoun- 
drel, I would denounce you to the police. A 
crime like that! Who is to be the victim?" 

Suddenly Claretie's voice: 

"Once her throat is cut she will be put in the 
cart with her husband. I prefer that to poison." 

The other man's voice: 

"Oh, that's too much ! Now the rascals want 
to poison her. I'll call the superintendent. I 
want an inquiry!" 

A terrible buzzing ensued; then a blissful 

It was time; with a subscriber roused to such 
a pitch, Claretie and I ran the chance of a bad 
quarter of an hour! I still tremble at the 
thought of it. 

After that I often worked with Claretie over 
the wire. The Ariane thread also took my voice 
to Persephone, I should say . . . Therese, 
whom I let hear in this way this or that vocal 
ending, so as to have her opinion before I wrote 
down the notes. 



One beautiful spring day I went to revisit the 
Garden at Bagatelle and its pretty pavilion, then 
still abandoned, which the Comte d'Artois had 
built under Louis XVI. I fixed thoroughly in 
my memory that delightful little chateau which 
the triumphant Revolution allowed to be ex- 
ploited for picnic parties after despoiling its old- 
time owner of it. When he got it back under the 
Restoration, the Comte d'Artois called it Babiole, 
Bagatelle or Babiole it's all the same; and this 
same pavilion was occupied almost to our own 
time by Sir Richard Wallace, the famous million- 
aire, philanthropist and collector. 

Later on I wanted the scenery of the first act 
of Therese to reproduce it exactly. Our artiste 
(Lucy Arbell) was especially impressed with the 
idea. It is well known that her ancestry makes 
her one of the descendants of the Marquis of 

When the score was finished and we knew the 
intentions of Raoul Gunsbourg, who wanted the 
work for the Monte Carlo Opera, Mme. Massenet 
and I were informed that H. S. H. the Prince of 
Monaco would honor our modest home with his 
presence, and with the chief of his household, 
the Comte de Lamotte d'Allogny, would lunch 



with us. We immediately invited my collabo- 
rator and Mme. Claretie and my excellent pub- 
lisher and Mme. Heugel. 

The Prince of Monaco with his deep simplicity 
was good enough to sit near a piano I had got in 
for the occasion and listen to passages from 
Therese. He learned the following detail from 
us. During the first reading Lucy Arbell, a true 
artist, stopped me as I was singing the last scene, 
where Therese gasps with horror as she sees the 
awful cart bringing her husband, Andre Thorel, 
to the scaffold and cries with all her might, 
"Vive le Roi!" so as to ensure that she shall be 
reunited with her husband in death. Just then, 
our interpreter, who was deeply affected, stopped 
me and said in a burst of rapture, "I can never 
sing that scene through, for when I recognize my 
husband who has given me his name and saved 
Armand de Clerval, I ought to lose my voice. 
So I ask you to declaim all of the ending of the 

Only great artists have such inborn gifts of 
instinctive emotion. Witness Mme. Fides De- 
vries who asked me to rewrite the aria of Chi- 
mene, "Pleurez mes yeux" She found that 
while she was singing it she thought only of her 



dead father and almost forgot her friend, Rodri- 

A sincere touch was suggested by the tenor, 
Talazac, the creator of Des Grieux. He wanted 
to add toi before vous which he uttered on finding 
Manon in the seminaire of Saint Sulpice. Does 
not that toi indicate the first cry of the old lover 
on seeing his mistress again? 

The preliminary rehearsals of Therese took 
place in the fine apartment, richly decorated with 
old pictures and work of art, which Raoul Guns- 
bourg had in the Rue de Rivoli. 

It was New Year's and we celebrated by work- 
ing in the salon from eight o'clock in the evening 
until midnight. 

Outside it was cold, but a good fire made us 
forget that, as we drank in that fine exquisite at- 
mosphere champagne to the speedy realization 
of our common hopes. 

How exciting and impressive those rehearsals 
were as they brought together such fine artists as 
Lucy Arbell, Edmond Clement and Dufranne ! 

The first performance of Therese came the 
next month, February 7, 1907, at the Monte 
Carlo Opera. 

That year my dear wife and I were again the 


guests of the Prince in that magnificent palace 
my admiration for which I have already told. 

His Highness invited us to his box the one 
where I had heen called at the end of the premiere 
of Le Jongleur de Notre Dame and where the 
Prince of Monaco himself had publicly invested 
me with the Grand Cordon of the Order of St. 

It is a fine thing to go to the theater, but it is 
an entirely different thing to be present at a per- 
formance and listen to it. So the evening of 
Therese I again took my accustomed place in the 
Prince's salon. Tapestries and doors separated 
it from the box. I was alone there in silence, 
at least I might expect to be. 

Silence ? The roar of applause which greeted 
our artists was so great that neither doors nor 
hangings could muffle it. 

At the official dinner given at the palace the 
next day our applauded creators were invited and 
feted. My celebrated confrere Louis Diemer, 
the marvellous virtuoso, who had consented to 
play the harpsichord in the first act of Therese, 
Mme. Louise Diemer, Mme. Massent and I were 
there. To reach the banquet hall my wife and 
I had to go up the Stairs of Honor. It was near 



our apartment that ideally beautiful apart- 
ment, truly a place of dreams. 

For two consecutive years Therese was played 
at Monte Carlo and with Lucy Arbell, the cre- 
ator, we had the brilliant tenor, Rousseliere and 
the master professor, Bouvet. 

In March, 1910, fetes of unusual and unheard 
of splendor were given at Monaco at the opening 
of the colossal palace of the Oceanographic Mu- 

Therese was given at the gala performance be- 
fore an audience which included members of the 
Institute, confreres of his Serene Highness, a 
member of the Academic des Sciences. Many 
illustrious persons, savants from the whole world, 
representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, as well 
as M. Loubet, ex-president of the Republic, were 

The morning of the formal inauguration the 
Prince delivered an admirable address, to which 
the presidents of the foreign academies replied. 

I was already much indisposed and I could 
not take my place at the banquet at the palace, 
after which the guests attended the gala perform- 
ance of which I have spoken. 

Henry Roujon, my confrere at the Institute, 


was good enough at the banquet the following 
day, to read the speech I would have delivered 
myself had I not been obliged to stay in bed. 

To be read by Henri Roujon is both honor and 

Saint-Saens was also invited to the fetes and 
he too stayed in the palace. He lavished the 
most affectionate care on me constantly. The 
Prince himself deigned to visit me in my sick 
room and both told me of the success of the per- 
formance and of our Therese, Lucy Arbell. 

The doctor had left me quieter in the evening 
and he too opened my door about midnight. He 
doubtless did so to see how I was, but he also told 
me of the fine performance. He knew it would 
be balm of certain efficacy for me. 

Here is a detail which gave me great satisfac- 

They had given Le Vieil Aigle by Raoul Guns- 
bourg in which Mme. Marguerite Carre, the wife 
of the manager of the Opera-Comique, was highly 
applauded. Albert Carre had been present at 
the performance and he met one of his friends 
from Paris and told him that he was going to put 
on Therese at the Opera-Comique with its dra- 
matic creatrix. 



As a matter of fact four years after the premi- 
ere at Monte Carlo and after many other houses 
had performed the work, the first performance 
of Therese was given at the Opera-Comique on 
May 28, 1911. L'Echo de Paris was so kind as 
to publish for the occasion a wonderfully got up 

As I write these lines, I read that the second 
act of Therese is a part of that rare program of 
the fete offered to me at the Opera on Sunday, 
December 10, 1911, by the organizers of the 
pious French popular charity, "Trente Ans de 
Theatre," the useful creation of my friend, 
Adrian Bernheim, whose mind is as generous as 
his soul is great and good. 

A dear friend said to me recently, "If you 
wrote Le Jongleur de Notre Dame with faith, you 
wrote Therese with all your heart." 

Nothing could be said more simply, and noth- 
ing could touch me more. 




I never deliver a work until I have kept it by 
me for months, even for years. 

I had finished Therese long before it was 
produced when my friend Heugel told me that 
he had already made arrangements with Catulle 
Mendes to write a sequel to Ariane. 

Although to our way of thinking Bacchus was 
a distinct work, it should form a whole with 

The text for it was written in a few months 
and I took great interest in it. 

And yet and this is entire accord with my 
character hesitation and doubt often bothered 

Of all the fabulous stories of the gods and 
demigods of antiquity those which relate to the 
Hindu heroes are perhaps the least known. 

The study of the fables of mythology, which 
has had until recently only the interest of curi- 
osity in even the most classical learning, has, 
thanks to the work of modem scholars, acquired 



a higher import as they have discovered its role 
in the history of religion. 

To allow the inspiration of his poetic muse, 
which was always so ardent and finely colored, 
wander at will in such a region was bound to de- 
light the well informed mind of Catulle Mendes. 

Palmiki's Sanscrit poem, the Ramayana, is at 
once religious and epic. For those who have 
read that sublime poem it is more curious and 
greater than even the Nibelungen, Germany's epic 
of the Middle Ages, which traces the struggle be- 
tween the family of the Nibelungen with Etzel or 
Attila and their consequent destruction. There 
is nothing exaggerated in calling the Ramayana 
the Iliad or Odyssey of India. It is as divinely 
beautiful as the immortal work of old Homer 
which has come down through the centuries. 

I knew the legend through reading and re- 
reading it, but what I had to do in my work was 
to add to my thought what the words, the verses, 
and the situations even could not explain clearly 
enough to the often inattentive public. 

My work this time was intense, obstinate, im- 
placable. I literally fought; I cut out, and I 
replaced. At last I finished Bacchus after de- 
voting many days and months to it. 


Queen Amahelly (Bacchus) 


The cast selected by the new management at 
the Opera, Mm. Messager and Broussan, was as 
follows: Lucienne Breval reappeared as Ari- 
ane; Lucy Arbell, in memory of her success as 
Persephone was Queen Amahelly in love with 
Bacchus; Muratore, our Thesus, doubled in the 
part of Bacchus, and Gresse accepted the role of 
the fanatical priest. 

The new management was not yet firmly in the 
saddle and wanted to give our work a magnificent 

Even as they had been previously cruel to 
Le Mage and to our excellent director, Gailhard 
(which did not prevent his going back there soon 
afterwards, better liked than ever) now they were 
hard on Bacchus. 

When Bacchus went on both the press and the 
public were undecided about the real worth of the 
new management. 

Giving a work under such conditions was run- 
ning a danger a second time. I saw it, but too 
late; for the work, in spite of its faults, did not 
seem to warrant such an amount of abuse. 

The public, however, which lets itself go in 
the sincerity of its feelings, showed a very com- 
forting enthusiasm in certain parts of the work. 



It received the first scene of the third act, espe- 
cially, with applause and numerous recalls. 
The ballet in the forests of India was highly ap- 
preciated. The entrance of Bacchus in his car 
(admirably staged) was a great success. 

With a little patience the good public would 
have triumphed over the ill will of which I had 
been forewarned. 

One day in February, 1909, 1 had finished an 
act of Don Quichotte (I will speak of that later 
on) it was four o'clock in the afternoon and 
I rushed to my publishers to keep an appoint- 
ment with Catulle Mendes. I thought I was 
late, and as I went in I expressed my regret at 
keeping my collaborator waiting. An employee 
answered me in these words: 

"He will not come. He is dead." 

My brain reeled at the terrible news. I would 
not have been more knocked out if some one had 
hit me over the head with a club. In an instant 
I learned the details of the appalling catastrophe. 

When I came to myself I could only say, "We 
are lost as far as Bacchus is concerned at the 
Opera. Our most precious support is gone." 

The anger his keen, fine criticism aroused 


against Catulle Mendes was a pretext for revenge 
on the part of the slaughtered. 

These fears were only too well justified by the 
doubts of which I have spoken and if, in the se- 
quel, Catulle Mendes had been present at our 
rehearsals he would have been of great assistance. 

My gratitude to those great artists Breval, 
Arbell, Muratore, Gresse is very great. They 
fought brilliantly and their talents inspired faith 
in a fine work. It was often planned to try to 
counteract the ill feeling. I thank Mm. Messa- 
ger and Broussan for the thought although it 
came to nothing. 

I wrote an important bit of orchestration (with 
the curtain down) to accompany the victorious 
fight of the apes in the Indian forests with the 
heroic army of Bacchus. I managed to make 
real at least I think I did in the midst of the 
symphonic developments the cries of the terrible 
chimpanzees armed with stones which they 
hurled from the tops of the rocks. 

Mountain passes certainly don't bring good 
luck. Thermopylae and Ronceval as Roland 
and Leonidas learned to their cost. All their 
yalor was in vain. 



While I was writing this music I went many 
times to the Jardin des Plantes to study the habits 
of these mammals. I loved these friends of 
which Schopenhauer spoke so evilly when he 
said that if Asia has her monkeys Europe has her 
French. The German Schopenhauer was not 
very friendly to us. 

Long before they decided, after many discus- 
sions, to start rehearsing Bacchus (it did not ap- 
pear until the end of the season of 1909) it was 
my good fortune to begin work on the music in 
three acts for Don Quichotte. Raoul Guns- 
bourg was exceedingly anxious to have both the 
subject and the cast at the Monte Carlo Opera. 

I was in very bad humor when I thought of the 
tribulations Bacchus had brought on me without 
there being anything with which I could reproach 
myself either as a man or as a musician. 

So Don Quichotte came into my life as a sooth- 
ing balm. I had great need of it. Since the 
preceding September I had suffered acute rheu- 
matic pains and I had passed much more of my 
existence in bed than out of it. I had found a 
device which enabled me to write in bed. 

I put Bacchus and its uncertain future out of 


my thoughts, and day by day I advanced the com- 
position of Don Quichotte. 

Henri Cain, as is his way, built up very clev- 
erly a scenario out of the heroic play by Le Lor- 
aine, the poet whose fine future was killed by the 
poverty which preceded his death. I salute that 
hero to art whose physiognomy resembled so 
much that of our "Knight of the Doleful Counte- 


What charmed me and decided me to write this 
work was Le Loraine's stroke of genius in substi- 
tuting for the coarse wench at the inn, Cervantes's 
Dulcinee, the original and picturesque La Belle 
Dulcinee. The most renowned French authors 
had not had that idea. 

It brought to our piece an element of deep 
beauty in the woman's role and a potent poetical 
touch to our Don Quixote dying of love real 
love this time for a Belle Dulcinee who justified 
the passion. 

So it was with infinite delight that I waited for 
the day of the performance which came in Feb- 
ruary, 1910. Oh beautiful, magnificent pre- 
miere ! 

They welcomed our marvellous artists with 
great enthusiasm. Lucy Arbell was dazzling 



and extraordinary as La Belle Dulcinee and 
Greese was an extremely comical Sancho. 

In thinking over this work which they gave five 
times in the same season at Monte Carlo a 
unique record in the annals of that house I feel 
my whole being thrill with happiness at the 
thought of seeing again that dreamland, the Pal- 
ace of Monaco, and his Serene Highness on the 
approaching occasion of Roma. 

New joys were realized at the rehearsals of 
Don Quichotte at the Theatre Lyrique de la Gaite, 
where I knew I should receive the frankest, most 
open and affectionate welcome from the directors, 
the Isola brothers. 

The cast we had at Monte Carlo was changed 
and at Paris we had for Don Quixote that superb 
artist Vanni Narcoux and for Sancho that mas- 
terly comedian Lucien Fugere. Lucy Arbell 
owed to her triumph at Monte Carlo her engage- 
ment as La Belle Dulcinee at the Theatre Lyrique 
de la Gaite. 

But was there ever unalloyed bliss? 

I certainly do not make that bitter reflection 
in regard to the brilliant success of our artists or 
about the staging of the Isola brothers which was 



so well seconded by the stage manager Labis. 

But judge for yourselves. The rehearsals had 
to be postponed for three weeks on account of the 
severe and successive illnesses of our three artists. 
A curious thing, however, and worthy of remark 
was that our three interpreters all got well at 
almost the same time, and left their rooms on the 
very morning of the general rehearsal. 

The frantic applause of the audience must 
have been a sweet and altogether exquisite rec- 
ompense for them when it broke out at the dress 
rehearsal, December 28, 1910, which lasted from 
one till five in the afternoon. 

My New Year's Day was very festive. I was 
ill and was on my bed of pain when they brought 
me the visiting cards of my faithful pupils, happy 
at my success, beautiful flowers for my wife, and 
a delightful bronze statuette, a gift from Raoul 
Gunsbourg, which recalled to me all that I owed 
him for Don Quichotte at Monte Carlo, for the 
first performances and the revivals of the same 

The first year of Don Quichotte at the Theatre 
Lyrique de la Gaite there were eighty consecutive 
performances of the work. 



It is a pleasure to recall certain picturesque 
details which interested me intensely during the 
preliminary rehearsals. 

First of all, the curious audacity of Lucy Ar- 
bell, our La Belle Dulcinee, in wanting to accom- 
pany herself on the guitar in the song in the 
fourth act. In a remarkably short time, she 
made herself a virtuoso on the instrument with 
which they accompany popular songs in Spain, 
Italy, and even in Russia. It was a charming 
innovation. She relieved us of that banality of 
the artist pretending to play a guitar, while a real 
instrumentalist plays in the wings, thus making 
a discord between the gestures of the singer and 
the music. None of the other Dulcinees have 
been able to achieve this tour de force of the crea- 
trix. I recall, too, that knowing her vocal abili- 
ties I brightened the role with daring vocaliza- 
tions which afterwards surprised more than one 
interpreter; and yet a contralto ought to know 
how to vocalize as well as a soprano. Le Pro- 
phete and The Barber of Seville prove this. 

The staging of the windmill scene, so ingen- 
iously invented by Raoul Gunsbourg, was more 
complicated at the Gaite, although they kept the 
effect produced at Monte Carlo. 



A change of horses, cleverly hidden from the 
audience, made them think that Don Quixote and 
the dummy were one and the same man ! 

Gunsbourg's inspiration in staging the fifth, 
act was also a happy chance. Any artist, even 
though he is the first in the world, in a scene of 
agony wants to die lying on the ground. With 
a flash of genius Gunsbourg cried, "A knight 
should die standing!" And our Don Quixote 
(then Chaliapine) leaned against a great tree in 
the forest and so gave up his proud and love lorn 




In the spring of 1910 my health was some- 
what uncertain. Roma had been engraved long 
before and was available material; Panurge was 
finished and I felt a rare thing for me the im- 
perative need of resting for some months. 

But it was impossible for me to do absolutely 
nothing, to give myself up completely to dolce 
farniente, delightful as that might be. I looked 
around and found an occupation which would 
weary neither my mind nor heart. 

I have told you that in May, 1891, when the 
house of Hartmann went under, I entrusted to a 
friend the scores of Werther and Amadis. I am 
speaking now only of Amadis. I went to my 
friend who opened his strong box and brought 
out, not banknotes, but seven hundred pages (the 
rough draft of the orchestration) which formed 
the score of Amadis and which had been com- 
posed at the end of 1889 and during 1890. The 
work had waited there in silence for twenty-one 

years ! 



Amadis! What a pretty libretto I had in 
Amadis! What a really novel viewpoint ! The 
Knight of the Lily is poetically and emotionally 
attractive and still remains the type of the con- 
stant, respectful lover. The situations are en- 
chanting. In short what resurrection could be 
more pleasing than that of the noble heroes of the 
Middle Ages those doughty, valiant, coura- 
geous knights. 

I took this score from the safe and left in its 
place a work for a quartet and two choruses for 
male voices. Amadis was to be my work for that 
summer. I began to copy it cheerfully at Paris 
and went to greville to continue on it. 

In spite of the fact that this work was easy and 
seemed to me such a soothing and perfect seda- 
tive for the discomfort I felt, I found that I was 
really very ill. I said to myself that I had done 
well in giving up composing in my precarious 
state of health. 

I went to Paris to consult my physician. He 
listened to my heart, and then, without hiding 
from me what his diagnosis had revealed, said, 

"You are very sick." 

"What," I exclaimed, "it is impossible. I 
was still copying when you came." 



"You are seriously ill," he insisted. 

The next morning the doctors and surgeons 
made me leave my dear quiet home and my be- 
loved room. 

A motor ambulance took me to the hospital in 
the Rue de la Chaise. It was some consolation 
not to leave my quarter! I was entered on the 
hospital records under an assumed name for the 
physicians feared interviews, however friendly, 
which would have been demanded and which I 
was absolutely forbidden to grant. 

My bed, through a most gracious care, was in 
the best room in the place and I was much moved 
by this attention. 

Surgeon Professor Pierre Duval and Drs. Rich- 
ardiere and Laffitte gave me the most admirable 
and devoted care. And there I was in a quiet 
which wrapped me in a tranquillity the value of 
which I appreciated. 

My dearest friends came to see me whenever 
they were allowed. My wife was much upset 
and had hurried from figreville bringing me her 
tender affection. 

I was better in a few days, but the compulsory 
rest imposed on my body did not prevent my 
mind working. 



I did not wait for my condition to improve be- 
fore I busied myself with the speeches I would 
have to deliver as president of the Institute and 
of the Academic des Beaux- Arts (the double pres- 
idency fell to me that year) and though I was in 
bed packed in ice, I sent directions for the scenery 
of Don Quichotte. 

Finally I got back home. 

What a joy it was to see my home again, my 
furniture, to find the books whose pages I loved 
to turn, all the objects that delighted my eyes and 
to which I was accustomed, to see again those 
who were dear to me, and the servants overflow- 
ing with attentions. My joy was so intense that 
I burst into tears. 

How happy I was to take up again my walks, 
although I was still uncertain from weakness and 
had to lean on the arm of my kind brother and on 
that of a dear lady! How happy I was during 
my convalescence to walk through the shady 
paths of the Luxembourg amid the joyous laugh- 
ter of children gamboling there in all their youth- 
fulness, the bright singing of the birds hopping 
from branch to branch, content to live in that 
beautiful garden, their delightful kingdom. . . . 

greville, which I had deserted when I so little 


dreamed of what was to happen to me, resumed 
its ordinary life as soon as my beloved wife, now 
tranquil about my fate, was able to return. 

The summer which had been so sad came to 
an end and autumn came with its two public ses- 
sions of the Institute and the Academic des 
Beaux- Arts, as well as the rehearsals of Don Qai- 

An idea of real interest was submitted to me 
between times by the artiste to whom the mission 
of making it triumph was to fall later. I turned 
the idea to account and wrote a set of composi- 
tions with the title proposed by the interpretess, 
Les Expressions Lyriques. This combination of 
two forces of expression, singing and speaking, 
interested me greatly ; especially in making them 
vibrate in one and the same voice. 

Moreover, the Greeks did the same thing in 
the interpretation of their hymns, alternating the 
chant with declamation. 

And as there is nothing new under the sun, 
what we deemed a modern invention was merely 
a revival from the Greeks. Nevertheless we hon- 
ored ourselves in doing so. 

Since then and ever since I have seen audi- 
ences greatly captivated by these compositions 


Dulcinee (Don Quichotte) 


and deeply affected by the admirable personal 
expression of the interpretess. 

As I was correcting the last proofs of Panurge 
one morning, I received a kindly visit from 0. 
de Lagoanere, the general manager of the Thea- 
tre Lyrique de la Gaite. The libretto of Panurge 
had been entrusted to me by my friend Heugel 
and its authors were Maurice Boukay, the pseu- 
donym of Couyba, later Minister of Commerce, 
and Georges Spitzmuller. De Lagoanere came 
in behalf of the Isola brothers to ask me to let 
them have Panurge. 

I answered to this proceeding, which was as 
spontaneous as it was flattering, that the gentle- 
men's interest in me was very kind but that they 
did not know the work. 

"That is true," the amiable M. Lagoanere an- 
swered at once, "but it is a work of yours." 

We fixed on a date and before we separated the 
agreement was signed, including the names of the 
artists proposed by the directors. 

Some weeks ago my good friend Adrien Bern- 
heim came to see me and between two sugar 
plums (he is as much of a gourmand as I am) 
proposed that I should take part in a great per- 



formance he was organizing in my honor to cele- 
brate the tenth anniversary of that French popu- 
lar charity "Trente Ans de Theatre." "In my 
honor!" I cried in the greatest confusion. 

No artist, even the greatest, could help being 
delighted at lending his presence at such an eve- 

After that, day by day, and always at my house, 
in the sitting room in the Rue de Vaugirard, I saw 
gathered together, animated by an equal devotion 
of making a success, the general secretaries of the 
Opera and the Opera-Comique, Mm. Stuart and 
Carbonne, and the manager of the Theatre Ly- 
rique de la Gaite, M. 0. de Lagoanere. My dear 
Paul Vidal, leader of the orchestra at the Opera 
and professor of composition at the Conserva- 
toire, was also there. 

The program was settled out of hand. The 
private rehearsals began at once. Nevertheless 
the fear that I felt and that I have always had 
when I make a promise, that I may be ill when the 
moment for fulfilment comes, caused me more 
than one sleepless night. 

"All's well that ends well," says the wisdom of 
the nations. I was wrong, as you will see, to tor- 
ture myself through so many nights. 



As I have said, no artist would have felt happy, 
if he had not shared in that evening by giving his 
generous assistance. Our valiant president, 
Adrien Bernheim, by a few words of patriotism 
induced all the professors of the Opera orchestra 
to come and rehearse the various acts inter- 
spersed through the program at six twenty-five in 
the evening. Nobody dined; everyone kept the 

To you all, my friends and confreres, my sin- 
cere thanks. 

I cannot properly appraise this celebration in 
which I played so personal a part. . . . 

There is no circumstance in life, however beau- 
tiful or serious, without some incident to mar it 
or to provide a contrast. 

All my friends wanted to give evidence of their 
enthusiasm by being present at the soiree at the 
Opera. Among them was a faithful frequenter 
of the theaters who made a point of coming to 
express his regret at not being able to be present 
at this celebration. He had recently lost his un- 
cle, who was a millionaire and whose heir he 

I offered my condolences and he went. 

What is funnier is that I was obliged to hear 


fortuitously the strange conversation about his 
uncle's funeral he had with the head undertaker. 

"If," said the latter, "Monsieur wants a first 
class funeral, he will have the entire church hung 
in black and with the arms of the deceased, the 
Opera orchestra, the leading singers, the most 
imposing catafalque, according to the price." 

The heir hesitated. 

"Then, sir, it will be second class; the orches- 
tra from the Opera-Comique, second rate singers 
according to the amount." 

Further hesitation. 

Whereupon the undertaker added in a sad 

"Then it will be third class; but I warn you, 
Monsieur, it will not be gay!" (sic). 

As I am on this topic I will add that I have re- 
ceived a letter of congratulations from Italy which 
concludes with the usual salutations, but this 
time conceived as follows : 

"Believe, dear sir, in my most sincere obse- 
quies." (Free translation of ossequiosita.) 

Sometimes death has as amusing sides as life 
has sad ones. 

Which brings to mind the fidelity with which 
the Lionnet brothers attended burials. 



Was it sympathy for the departed or ambition 
to see their names among those distinguished per- 
sons mentioned as having been present? We 
shall never know. 

One day in a funeral procession Victorien Sar- 
dou heard one of the Lionnets say to one of his 
neighbors, with a broken-hearted air, while giv- 
ing the sad news about a friend's health, "Well, 
it will be his turn soon." 

These words aroused Sardou's attention, and 
he exclaimed, pointing to the brothers, 

"They not only go to all the burials ; the*; an- 
nounce them!" 




During the summer of 1902 I left Paris and 
went to my home in figreville. Among the 
books and pamphlets I took with me was Rome 
Vaincue by Alexandre Parodi. That magnifi- 
cent tragedy had had a never to be forgotten suc- 
cess when it was played on the stage of the Com- 
edie-Frangaise in 1876. 

Sarah Bernhardt and Mounet-Sully, then in 
their youth, were the protagonists in the two most 
impressive acts of the work; Sarah Bernhardt in- 
carnated the blind grandmother, Posthumia, and 
Mounet-Sully interpreted the Gallic slave Vesta- 

Sarah in all the flower of her radiant beauty 
had demanded the role of the old woman, so true 
is it that the real artiste does not think of herself, 
but knows when it is necessary to abstract from 
self, to sacrifice her charms, her grace and the 
light of her allurements to the higher exigencies 
of art. 



The same remark could be applied at the 
Opera thirty years later. 

I remember those tall bay windows through 
which the sunshine came into my great room at 

After dinner I read the engaging brochure, 
Rome Vaincue, until the last beams of daylight. 
I could not get away from it I became so enthusi- 
astic. My reading was stopped only by 

, . . . 1'obscure clarte qui tombe des etoiles 
Bientot avec la nuit . . . 

as our great Corneille said. 

Need I add that I was unable to resist the de- 
sire to go to work immediately and that during the 
following days I wrote the whole scene for Post- 
humia in the fourth act? One might say that in 
this way I worked by chance, as I had not yet dis- 
tributed the scenes in accord with the necessities 
of an opera. All the same I had already de- 
cided on a title: Roma. 

The complete concentration with which I 
threw myself into this work did not prevent my 
realizing that in default of Alexandre Parodi who 
died in 1901, I needed the authority of the 
heirs. I wrote, but my letter brought no re- 



I owed this contretemps to a wrong address. 
Indeed the widow of the illustrious poet of trag- 
edy told me afterwards that my request never 
reached its destination. 

Parodi! Truly he was the vir probus dicendi 
peritus of the ancients. What memories I have 
of our strolls along the Boulevard des Batig- 
nolles ! How eloquently he narrated the life of 
the Vestals which he had read in Ovid, their great 
historian ! 

I listened eagerly to his colorful talk, so en- 
thusiastic about things of the past. Ah, his out- 
hursts against all that was not elevated in 
thought, his noble pride in his intentions, digni- 
fied and simple in form how superb, I say, these 
outbursts were, and how one felt that his soul 
thrilled in the Beyond! . It was as if a flame 
burned in him searing on his cheeks the signs 
of his inward tortures. 

I admired him and loved him deeply. It 
seems to me that our work together is not fin- 
ished, but that some day we shall be able to take 
it up again in that mysterious realm whither we 
go but from which none ever returns. 

I was entirely led astray by the silence which 
followed the sending of my letter and I was going 



to abandon the project of writing Roma, when a 
master poet came into my life. He offered me 
five acts Ariane for the Opera, as I have said 

Five years later, in 1907, my friend Henri 
Cain asked me if I intended to resume my faithful 
collaboration with him. 

As he chatted with me, he remarked that my 
thoughts were elsewhere and that I was preoccu- 
pied with another idea. That was it exactly. I 
was drawn to confess my adventure with Roma. 

My desire to find in that work the text of my 
dreams was immediately shared by Henri Cain; 
forty-eight hours afterwards he brought me the 
authorization of the heirs. They had signed an 
agreement which gave me five years in which to 
write and put on the work. 

It is an agreeable thing to thank again Mme. 
Parodi, a woman of unusual and real distinc- 
tion, and her sons, one of whom holds a high 
place in the Department of Public Instruction. 

As I have already said, I found myself in Feb- 
ruary, 1910, at Monte Carlo for the rehearsals 
and first performance of Don Quichotte. I again 
lived as before in that apartment in the Hotel du 
Prince de Galles which has always pleased me so 



much. I always returned to it with joy. How 
could it be otherwise? 

The room in which I worked looked out on the 
level of the boulevards of the city and I had an 
incomparable view from my windows. 

In the foreground were orange, lemon, and 
olive trees; on the horizon the great rock rising 
out of the azure waves, and on the rock the old 
palace modernized by the Prince of Monaco. 

In this quiet peaceful home an exceptional 
thing for a hotel in spite of the foreign families 
installed there, I was stirred to work. During 
my hours of freedom from rehearsals I busied my- 
self in writing an overture for Roma. I had 
brought with me the eight hundred pages of or- 
chestration in finished manuscript. 

The second month of my stay at Monte Carlo 
I spent at the Palace of Monaco. I finished the 
composition there amidst enchantment, in its 
deeply poetic splendor. 

When I was present at the rehearsals of Roma 
two years later and first heard the work played at 
sight by the artists of the Opera conducted with 
an extraordinary art by that master Leon Jehin, 
I thought of the coincidence that these pages had 



been written on the spot so near where they were 
to be played. 

When I returned to Paris in April, after the 
sumptuous fetes with which the Oceanographic 
Museum was opened, I received a call from Raoul 
Gunsbourg. He came in the name of his Serene 
Highness to learn whether I had a work I could 
let him have for 1912. Roma had been finished 
for some time ; the material for it was all ready, 
and in consequence I could promise it to him and 
wait two years more. I offered it to him. 

My custom, as I have said, is never to speak 
of a work until it is entirely finished, and the ma- 
terials which are always important are engraved 
and corrected. It is a considerable task, for 
which I want to thank my dear publishers, Henri 
Heugel and Paul-mile Chevalier, as well as my 
rigid correctors at the head of whom I love to 
place Ed. Laurens, a master musician. If I in- 
sist on this, it is because up to now, nothing has 
been able to prevent the persistence of this form- 
ula, "M. Massenet is hurrying to finish his score 
in order to be ready for the first performance." 
Let us record it and get on ! 

It was not until December, 1911, that the re- 


hearsals of the artists in Roma began at Raoul 
Gunsbourg's, Rue de Rivoli. 

It was fine to see our great artists enamored 
of the teachings of Gunsbourg who lived the 
roles and put his life into it in putting them on 
the stage. 

Alas for me ! An accident put me in bed at 
the beginning of those impassioned studies. 
However, every evening from five to seven I fol- 
lowed from my bed, thanks to the telephone, the 
progress of the rehearsals of Roma. 

The idea of not being able, perhaps, to go to 
Monte Carlo bothered me, but finally my excel- 
lent friend, the eminent Dr. Richardiere, author- 
ized my departure. On January 29 my wife and 
I started for that country of dreams. 

At the station in Lyons, an excellent dinner! 
A good sign. Things look well. 

The night, always fatiguing in a train, was en- 
dured by means of the joy of the future rehears- 
als. Things looked better ! 

The arrival in my beloved room at the Prince 
de Galles. An intoxication. Things look bet- 
ter still! 

What an incomparable health bulletin, is it 



Finally, the reading of Roma, in Italian with 
the orchestra, artists and chorus. There were 
so many fine, kindly manifestations, that I paid 
for my warm emotions by catching cold. 

What a contrast; what irony! However why 
be surprised? Are not all contrasts of that 

Happily my cold did not last long. Two days 
later I was up again, better than ever. I profited 
by this by going with my wife, always curious and 
eager to see picturesque places, to wander in an 
abandoned park. We were there in the solitude 
of that rich, luxuriant nature, in the olive groves, 
which let us see through their grayish green 
leaves, so tender and sweet, the sea in its change- 
less blue, when I discovered . . . a cat ! 

Yes, a cat, a real cat, and a very friendly one ! 
Knowing without a doubt that I had always been 
friendly with his kind, he honored me with his 
society and his insistent and affectionate mewings 
never left me. I poured out my anxious heart to 
this companion. Indeed, it was during my hours 
of isolation that the dress rehearsal of Roma was 
at its height. Yes, I said to myself, just now 
Lentulus has arrived. Now Junia. Behold 
Fausta in the arms of Fabius. At this very mo- 



Monte Carlo, 
Feb. 29, 1912. 
Dear great friend, 

You do me the honor to ask me for these lines 
for reproduction in America. 

In America ! . . * 

It will be my glory to send thither my thought, 
full of admiration for that great country, for its 
choice public, for its theaters in which my works 
have been given. You honor my artists and my- 
self so much by speaking of Roma, and I am the 
prouder of your words because they will present 
that tragic opera with your talent's high au- 



DjfWi, hltuMt bMn 


tiMfriJjto. v 

* < tvfyv tw iU 
\ j ^ v 



frtywfwtrut ^^ 
t lit Vffa 

Facsimile of Massenet's Reply to an Invitation to Visit 



ment Posthumia drags herself to the feet of the 
cruel senators. For we, we others, have, and it 
is a strange fact, an intuition of the exact moment 
when this or that scene is played, a sort of divina- 
tion of the mathematical division of time applied 
to the action of the theater. It was the four- 
teenth of February. The sun of that splendid 
day could not but brighten the joy of all my fine 

I cannot speak of the superb first performance 
of Roma without a certain natural embarrass- 
ment. I leave that task to others, but I permit 
myself to reproduce what anyone could read in 
the next day's papers. 

The interpretation one of the most beautiful 
that it has been our lot to applaud was in every 
way worthy of this new masterpiece of Mas- 

A remarkable thing which must be noted in 
the first place is that all the parts are what are 
termed in theatrical parlance "good roles." 
Every one of them gives its interpreter chances 
for effects in singing and acting which are cal- 
culated to win the admiration and applause of the 



Having said this much in praise of the work, 
let us congratulate the marvellous interpreters in 
their order on the program. 

Mile. Kousnezoff with her youth, fresh beauty 
and superb dramatic soprano voice was a feast to 
the eyes and the ears and she will continue to 
be for a long time the prettiest and most seduc- 
tive Fausta that one might wish for. 

The particularly dramatic part of the blind 
Posthumia was the occasion of a creation which 
will rank among the most extraordinary in the 
brilliant career of that great operatic tragedienne 
Lucy Arbell. Costumed with perfect esthetic 
appreciation in a beautiful dark robe of iron gray 
silk, with her face artificially aged but beautiful 
along classic lines, Lucy Arbell moved and stirred 
the audience profoundly, as much by her impres- 
sive acting as by the deep velvety notes of her con- 
tralto voice. 

Mme. Guiraudon in her scene in the second act 
achieved a great personal success, and never so 
much as yesterday did the Paris critic regret that 
this young, exquisite artist had abandoned pre- 
maturely her career as an artist and consents to 
appear hereafter but rarely and ... at Monte 



Mme. Eliane Peltier (the High Priestess) and 
Mile. Doussot (Galla) completed excellently a 
female cast of the first order. 

Furthermore the male parts were no less re- 
markable or less applauded. 

M. Muratore, a grand opera tenor of superb 
appearance and generous voice, invested the role 
of Lentulus with a vigor and manly beauty which 
won all hearts, and which, in Paris as at Monte 
Carlo, will ensure him a brilliant and memorable 

M. J. F. Delmas with his clear diction and lyr- 
ical declamation, which is so properly theatrical, 
was an incomparable Fabius and was no less 
applauded than his comrades from the Opera, 
Muratore and Note. The latter in fact was mar- 
vellous in the part of the slave Vestapor whose 
wild imprecations resounded to the utmost in his 
great sonorous baritone. 

Finally, M. Clauzure, whose Roman mask was 
perfect, achieved a creation the first in his ca- 
reer which places this young Premier Prix of 
the Conservatoire on an equal footing with the fa- 
mous veterans of the Paris Opera beside whom 
last night he fought the good fight of art. 

The chorus, both men and women, patiently 


trained by their devoted master M. Louis Vialet, 
and the artists of the Opera, who anew affirmed 
their mastery and homogeneity, were irreproach- 
able under the supreme direction of the master 
Leon Jehin. All the composers whose works he 
conducts justly load him down with thanks and 
felicitations, and his talent and indefatigable 
power are acclaimed constantly by all the dilet- 
tanti of Monte Carlo. 

M. Visconti, who in his way is one of the indis- 
pensable artistic mainsprings of the Theatre de 
Monte Carlo, painted five scenes of Roma, better 
five masterly paintings, which were greatly ad- 
mired and which won great admiration and pro- 
longed applause. His "Forum" and "Sacred 
Grove" are among the most beautiful theatrical 
paintings ever seen here. 

As for M. Raoul Gunsbourg, the stage mana- 
ger in whose praise it is henceforth superfluous 
to speak, it is sufficient to say that Roma is one of 
the scores he has put on with the most pleasure 
and the most sincere veneration. That is to say 
that he brought to bear on it all his care, and all 
his dictatorial and artistic mind. 

With such a combination of the elements of 
success put into Roma, victory was certain. Last 



night's triumph was one of the most complete 
that we have had to chronicle here for fifteen 
years. And it is with joy that we affirm this to 
the glory of the Master, Massenet, and of the 
Monte Carlo Opera. 

That year the days passed at the Palace were 
all the sweeter to my heart as the Prince showed 
me an even more touching affection, if that were 

I was honored by the duty of attending in the 
salon adjoining the Prince's box (everyone knows 
that I do not attend first performances) and I 
recall that his Serene Highness at the end of the 
first act, in front of the attentive assemblage, said 
to me, "I have given you all I could; I have not 
yet embraced you." And as he said this his 
Highness embraced me with keen emotion. 

Here I am in Paris, on the eve of the rehearsals 
and first performance of Roma at the Opera. I 
have hope ... I have such admirable artists. 
They have already won the first battle for me. 
Will they not be able to triumph in the second? 




I have departed from this planet and I have 
left behind my poor earthly ones with their occu- 
pations which are as many as they are useless ; at 
last I am living in the scintillating splendor of 
the stars, each of which used to seem to me as 
large as millions of suns. Of old I was never 
able to get such lighting for my scenery on the 
great stage at the Opera where the backdrops 
were too often in darkness. Henceforth there 
will be no letters to answer ; I have bade farewell 
to first performances and the literary and other 
discussions which come from them. 

Here there are no newspapers, no dinners, no 
sleepless nights. Ah ! if I could but counsel my 
friends to join me here, I would not hesitate to 
call them to me. But would they come? 

Before I came to this distant place where I 
now sojourn, I wrote out my last wishes (an un- 
happy husband would have taken advantage of 
the occasion to write with joy, "my first wishes"). 



I had indicated that above all I wanted to be 
buried at greville, near the family abode in 
which I had lived so long. Oh, the good ceme- 
tery in the open fields, silent as befits those who 
live there ! 

I asked that they should refrain from hanging 
black draperies on my door, ornaments worn 
threadbare by use. I expressed the wish that a 
suitable carriage should take me from Paris, the 
journey, with my consent, to begin at eight in the 

An evening paper (perhaps two) felt it to be 
its duty to inform its readers of my decease. A 
few friends I still had some the day before 
came and asked my concierge if the news were 
true, and he replied, "Alas, Monsieur went with- 
out leaving his address." And his reply was 
true for he did not know where that obliging car- 
riage was taking me. 

At lunch acquaintances honored me among 
themselves with their condolences, and during 
the day here and there in the theaters they spoke 
of the adventure, 

"Now that he is dead, they'll play him less, 
won't they?" 

"Do you know he left still another work?" 


"Ah, believe me, I loved him well! I have 
always had such great success in his works." 

A woman's lovely voice said that. 

They wept at my publishers, for there they 
loved me dearly. 

At home, Rue de Vaugirard, my wife, daugh- 
ter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gath- 
ered and almost found consolation in their sobs. 

The family was to reach figreville the same 
evening, the night before my burial. 

And my soul (the soul survives the body) lis- 
tened to all these sounds from the city left behind. 
As the carriage took me farther and farther away, 
the talking and the noises grew fainter and 
fainter, and I knew, for I had my vault built long 
ago, that the heavy stone once sealed would be a 
few hours later the portal of oblivion. 



from which it was borrowed. 

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